How many times have billboards prompted you to pull off the highway in search of fast food? If you’re anything like me, you’d rather not count.
But how do companies measure the impact of these billboards? They can’t prove that the ad is what causes people to stop despite their hunch that it contributes to sales.
Marketers face a similar problem with display ads: if only 10 people out of every 100 click, what effect do the other 90 impressions have on growth?
Thankfully, we can use view-through conversions to measure how ads influence people, even if they don’t engage with the ad. Here’s how the metric helps display campaigns and how to set the right view-through conversion window for your product.
What is a view-through conversion?
Display marketing uses two types of conversions to report results: click-through conversions and view-through conversions.
A click-through conversion is when someone clicks on an ad and converts. While the conversion doesn’t have to happen immediately after clicking, what’s important is the person engaged with the ad when it showed up.
On the other hand, view-through conversions are counted when someone doesn’t click on an ad but still converts some time later.
The time period between when someone sees an ad and when they convert is referred to as the lookback or conversion window.
Most ad platforms let you set click-through and view-through conversion windows separately. For example, you can tell the platform to count conversions that happen four days after a click and 30 days after a view.
Setting your view-through conversion window
It’s difficult to know what the right view-through conversion window is for your campaign. While click-throughs measure how ads and landing pages influence action, view-through conversions are more often seen as a way to measure ad recall and brand awareness.
This is a tough spot to be in. Set a view-through conversion window that’s too short and you’re limiting results. Set one that’s too long and your data is inconclusive at best.
So what’s the perfect lookback window? There’s no steadfast rule. Here are three things to consider.
1. Think about your buying cycle
How long do most customers spend between learning about your product and buying it?
For a B2B product, this can span weeks or months. But an online store’s buying cycle might be minutes or hours.
Many things can extend a product’s buying cycle, even if it’s in a typically fast-moving industry. For example, someone might see an ad for winter coats that spurs them to research alternatives, ask a friend for advice, or settle into waiting for a sale.
Any of these factors would extend a buying cycle, requiring a longer view-through conversion window to accurately capture lift from the display campaign.
If you want to shorten the view-through conversion window to capture stronger results, try reducing the ask in your ad. Instead of offering a free consultation, promote gated content. Rather than focusing on a hard sale, offer a coupon code.
This lets you capture more interest by lowering the barrier to entry. From there, you can nurture leads towards a sale.
2. Consider other factors that nudge a sale
The buying process is rarely linear. Usually a combination of factors come together to trigger a sale: ads on other platforms, comments from friends, seasons changing, discounts, and more.
None of these triggers discredit view-through conversions. In fact, a display ad served early in the buying cycle might have the most influence on a later sale.
The view-through conversion window is flexible depending on what you want to measure. A shorter window would better measure a specific display ad’s impact on a sale, while a longer duration can provide a status on the health of your ad campaigns.
In other words, knowing exactly how you want to use view-through conversions is key to getting the most out of the metric.
3. Evaluate what stage of the campaign your ad talks to
Finally, you should consider how view-through conversion windows change based on the funnel.
It’s normal for people to spend more time researching, planning, and seeking alternatives at the top of the funnel. Of course, this also adds more time to any conversion. However, the duration is compressed if they are a past customer or part of an email list.
Use this knowledge to your advantage. Remarketing or targeted campaigns are meant to get people to act immediately. These should have a shorter view-through conversion window—maybe a day or a week.
But broad, top-funnel campaigns probably won’t convert in this time period, even if they clicked on the ad. View-through conversion customers might need 14 to 30 days to think about your product, do research, and buy.