How do you measure return on investment (ROI) from a digital marketing campaign? Did your ad on the internet lead to an increase in sales? And what if the said sale was in a brick-and-mortar store?

Given that digital marketing (a high proportion of which is Search and Social) has seen high disruption, some of it caused by Google’s algorithm tweaks, arrival of voice, video and OTT platforms, marketers are increasingly questioning the ROI from their digital marketing. Especially as competition is mounting, leading to high clutter.

A Nielsen survey in 2018 showed that only one in four marketers was confident of accurately quantifying digital media ROI. Gone are the days when a digital ad campaign could be measured by the sheer number of visitors on the site. Marketers insist it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify the benefits of a video ‘share’ or a social media ‘like’ to corporate executives who can only evaluate activities based on quantitative benefits.

Battling the ‘skip’ option

N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research, a brand insight company, says digital marketing itself is battling several innate problems. “Digital ads have become pesky and intrusive, akin to telecallers who call without permission to sell their wares.” As he points out, “the ‘skip’ button’ on YouTube is perhaps the most overused, and the ‘promoted’ message on Facebook or Twitter makes users altogether avoid messages."

Moreover, since advertisements are sometimes misplaced with incorrect content, brand safety is compromised.


So, if consumers are not watching the advertisement, how do advertisers get their ROI? “They don’t,” shrugs Chandramouli. “The analytics of advertising click-through and consumer views of the advertisement don’t give all the information — whether the full ad was viewed, and if there was any follow-up action from the advertisement.”

Where does one go from here? “The onus is on the advertiser to demand more analytics on consumers viewing the advertisement,” he says.

Third party tracking

Subrat Kar, Co-Founder and CEO, Vidooly, a video intelligence product company for online video content creators, has a different take.

“Any efficient marketer knows that tracking ROI is easy for many digital campaigns. By using UTM parameters (which are tags added to a URL, so when the link is clicked, the tags are sent back to Google Analytics and tracked) or via Facebook analytics, tracking various campaigns is easy,” he says. Especially when the latest video has racked up thousands of views on YouTube, and is shared across several social media channels, ROI can easily be tracked, Kar insists.

Marketers have also started using third-party tracking measuring campaigns on OTT (over the top) apps.

Despite these facilities, online, a large number of marketers fail to track the ROI of their campaigns. “Often, businesses are scared of launching a largescale digital marketing campaign,” says Kar. “Many marketers are still baffled about spending big on social media platforms and OTTs. There are just too many questions,” he says.

What’s going to be the ROI for one social media post? By creating a viral video campaign, will it bring in sales? Are my ads seen by the right audience that fits my brand’s target group? These, and similar questions, come to the marketer’s mind, says Kar.

Validation from Lenovo

Validation on digital has also come from a Google-Lenovo study published recently. Tech company Lenovo — which has its own chain of exclusive stores — had a feeling that most consumers were browsing online but buying through its retail stores, especially as 76 per cent of its sales continue via the retail route. The company partnered with Google to estimate the impact digital advertising can create in sales conversion.

The result of its study: Google Search was driving 25 per cent of all retail purchases, with over one out of every four Lenovo laptops sold at retail outlets a direct consequence of a paid search influence. “We were, for the first time, able to ascertain what percentage of offline sales can be attributed to digital, with one out of four laptops that consumers buy in retail stores having a paid search influence,” says Amit Doshi, Chief Marketing Officer, India and South Asia, Lenovo.

A major finding was the generation of 76x ROI on paid search investments by Lenovo. In other words, “for every ₹1 spent on search marketing, it influenced (brought on) ₹76 in sales,” says Doshi. Another finding was a 25 per cent transaction rate. “Some 100 paid search clicks led to four Lenovo laptops being purchased at retail stores,” explains Doshi. Speaking of the implications of the findings for other industry players, Doshi says, “The study gave us conviction that when you spend online, it could generate offline sales and allowed us to optimise customer experience to convert purchases.”

Instagram impact

It’s not just Google that gives you trackable data. Pooja Gururaj, Lead - Channel & Social Media, VMLY&R India, a digital marketing agency, says Instagram is a potent online marketing tool,

Recent research from Buzzoka reveals that Instagram is the primary choice for Indian brands and marketers as they look to invest more in 2019. Instagram stories, as a format, have also opened up a new avenue of metrics that can be explored by brands, Gururaj explains. Key metrics such as “organic reach, engagement and click-through rate should be tracked on Instagram to reap maximum ROI from brands’ marketing efforts,” she says.

She also says other consumer feedback channels are available to brands: polls, which give direct feedback based on specific questions, percentage of followers viewing their story, which can provide insight into the effectiveness of the content, and completion rate, a good indicator of how engaged your audience is with your content.