Study: Conversion Takes Time

Up to 85 percent of conversions occur after the day the most recent advertising impression was served, according to new research from The results seem to show online ads can have an impact on buyers’ purchasing decisions long after they view an ad.

The research was conducted on Baltimore, Md.-based’s ad network, which reaches about 72 percent of all Internet users, according to comScore Media Metrix. Using the Optigence platform, researchers analyzed anonymous user behavior based on data collected from over 370 million impressions served for three separate advertisers. The study examined the number and timing of conversions, defined as the desired action taken on an ad, occurring over intervals of five, 10 and 14 days after the impression.

For the five-day monitoring period, approximately one-third of all conversions happened on the same day that the impression was served, but only nine to 11 percent occurred within three hours of the impression being served. The longer periods of monitoring revealed that up to 85 percent of conversions occurred days after a user was served an impression.

“These findings show what a significant portion of conversion activity takes place well beyond the impression,” said Scott Ferber, chief executive officer of He said that the data shows that metrics such as per-click or per-action may not give marketers an accurate picture of campaign results. “It also reveals how lasting the effect of an impression can be,” he said.

Although on an hourly basis, the first three hours after an ad was served was the most productive, overall, 97 percent of conversions happened after the first hour. Said’s research director, William Masterson, “That really speaks to the long-term branding impact of online advertising.”

One interesting finding was that as much as 30 percent of the conversions occurred at the same time, but on a different day, than when an impression was served. For example, if a user saw an impression on Monday at 2 p.m. but did not convert on the ad until Wednesday, it is likely that the conversion happened at or near 2 p.m. on Wednesday. This data supports the theory that users’ consumption of the Internet is often patterned and repeated on a daily basis.

Masterson said that this finding shows that day-parting could be as important a targeting strategy online as it is in other media. “If you know when your audience is going to be online or converting, there is some value to targeting by time of day.” He said that as more advertisers move to the pay-for-performance model, they will also focus more on conversion rather than per-click. ” We want to measure performance in the longest time possible and in the most accurate way,” Masterson said. “Some advertisers are willing to adopt this metric, some are not. But as performance networks become more popular, we’ll see more of this.”

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