Too many marketers are relying on clicks and CTR as mobile success metrics. While CTR has validity in PC search campaigns, clicks are a lazy or sloppy metric in mobile that don’t tell you that much about how your campaign is actually performing (in most cases).  It’s therefore critical to go beyond the click and look at a range of metrics to gain a true sense of mobile ROI.

Comparing Mobile Ad Networks

Let me illustrate with a real-world example. In addition to my role as an editor here, I also work as an analyst with a firm in San Francisco called Opus Research. Late last year we sought to test the thesis that campaigns on local-mobile ad networks might outperform more traditional “national” networks.

With the help of SIM Partners in Chicago we made an ad buy across five networks: AdMob, JumpTap, LSN Mobile, xAd and Millennial Media. The networks were determined by several factors: who had self-service, who could guarantee a start date and who didn’t have significant spending minimums that would bust our budget.

The client was hotel chain La Quinta Inns & Suites. The company provided ad creative (below), used in its previous mobile campaigns. The total value of the buy was $10,000 so it was relatively modest on each individual network. The campaign ran in Chicago, Dallas and Houston between 12/5/11 and 12/23/11.

Below are the various metrics we were able to obtain. We saw a range of impressions, clicks and CPM/CPC rates accordingly.

I had wanted call tracking but that wasn’t permitted by the creative we were given. La Quinta told us that they didn’t get a single online reservation during the period of the campaign. So how do we evaluate this campaign and the networks accordingly?

We do know who delivered more impressions, who offered the cheapest CPCs and who had the highest CTRs: Jumptap on the first two counts and xAd on the third. But do we really know how this campaign performed?

Was The Campaign A Failure?

As mentioned, La Quinta told us that there were no online reservations during the period of the campaign. Was it a failure? If awareness was the hypothetical goal we wouldn’t consider it a failure. If reservations were the goal, however, it would seem to have failed.

But what about all those people clicking? How do we think about them? Did those people later call or show up in La Quinta locations? Those actions weren’t tracked in any way. The campaign could have generated phone-based or offline reservations; we simply don’t know.

Because of this xAd ran a follow up campaign on its network in January of this year (1/19/12 – 1/29/12), where it used the original banner and one of its own design. It also used a different landing page that enabled it to track calls and secondary actions like maps and directions lookups. What xAd found was very interesting.

There was a lot of behavior revealed that wasn’t captured in the main study. There were map lookups and especially calls, showing that the ad was generating inquiries and potentially reservations (there was no monitoring of call content). By having a landing page that featured more tracking options, the company gained more insight into post-click behavior. Thus we start to see a bit more about how the campaign is actually performing.

Calling Behavior Revealed

The following shows only calls and call duration. Note that the original banner drove more clicks but fewer calls.

The original campaign might have been driving calls and potentially visits and offline reservations. However, because we weren’t set up to track any of that, we have no idea what was happening “post click.”

Starwood: Better Conversions Over The Phone

Another hotel company, Starwood (which owns Westin, Sheraton and other brands), recently said the following in an interview with eMarketer (4/12):

One of the things we’ve noticed in mobile is that we can convert a lot better if we drive consumers to a call center with a click-to-call experience rather than a click-to-book experience.

In other words, people weren’t booking through an e-commerce experience on the mobile site; they’re booking via the call center. It’s more natural for them to call than to fill out tiny fields on a smartphone. An e-commerce experience on the smartphone created friction for consumers who wanted to book — so they weren’t doing it.

Starwood is a big Google Click-to-Call mobile advertiser and has seen great success with it. According to the company, it’s now driving the majority of its mobile bookings.

In case it’s not self-evident, marketers need to think about mobile campaigns differently than PC campaigns. Think about users and what’s easiest and most convenient for them. Track everything to understand what’s actually going on with the campaign and get a true sense of ROI. Use coupons, track calls and map lookups.

Most of the conversion behavior in mobile is going to be “offline.” So you can’t just stop at the click.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing Column

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.



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