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The halo effect of ad spend

eCommerce stores spend millions of dollars on ads every year. In fact, Smart Insights suggests that when you combine PPC ads like Google with product promotion ads, the average eCommerce seller spends 29%–57% of their total budget on ads.

While that’s an unfortunate side effect of “pay to play” policies, ad spend can pay off in numerous ways that aren’t directly trackable from your ad dashboard. And, organizations like the Digital Shelf Institute show that for every $1 you spend on ads, you’re likely to drive $3-$7 in revenue. Ads can be a powerful asset even without the halo effect, but those side benefits do exist.

The halo effect of ad spend refers to side effects that spread out from running ads, influencing even shoppers who don’t click on those ads. These results can be just as or more desirable than ad clicks themselves. Let’s go over a few key ones below.

Halo effects of ad spend

Boosting organic traffic

Most search engine optimization tools, including the one on Amazon, use existing traffic as a metric of page quality. This means that the more clicks you have to your product, the better it will rank in organic search. Your chances increase if people stay on the product page longer, if they share the page, or if they bookmark it to view later. The more you drive traffic to your site with ads, the more traffic you’ll likely drive via SEO.

Ads result in:

  • Increased traffic
  • Link shares
  • Backlinks

Eventually, if you have an SEO campaign (and you should), the two will complement each other and build the other up.

If someone sees something in your ad, you should have an SEO campaign running to ensure they can find it in an organic search when they try to look for it again. If someone clicks through to your product in search, you should use retargeting so they continue to see it via ads.

Brand awareness

Many people who see your product ads won’t click on them. But, they will see your brand and products, and will continue to as long as you run your advertising.

That eventually contributes to brand awareness and familiarity. When the customer decides to purchase a product, they might recognize your brand, making them more likely to buy, even if they don’t know why they recognize your brand.

One study showed that familiarity with a brand name increased purchase intent, reduced consideration of potential risks of purchasing, and increased impulse buys. While the study was mostly conducted with larger brands, the science remains the same for smaller and new brands as well.

  • If people see your brand, they become familiar with it
  • Consumers are more likely to make purchases from familiar brands

That also carries over to organic search. If the customer sees your product in organic search, they’re more likely to choose it if they recognize your brand and not your competitors’.

Social media visibility

Facebook ads encourage consumers to click through to your page or product and follow that page – eventually leading to a sale. If the sale happens after 30 days, Facebook doesn’t attribute the sale, but you’ll still see a halo effect. An additional “like” or engagement could result in a further visibility boost for your page as well.

Similarly, ads can prompt consumers to register for webinars, email, or to otherwise engage with a company, eventually leading to an unattributed sale.

Recovering abandoned carts

Ads can remind consumers to look for brands they already know. They can also provide prompt alerts about abandoned shopping carts or products consumers forgot to finish checking out.

An example scenario for this is someone being out at a restaurant on their lunch break, researching products online. They spot your ad and start the checkout process, but get distracted and end up exiting without making a purchase. Later at home, they see the same ad on their phone, and decide to make a purchase on their desktop.

Although they never clicked on your ad, the halo effect remained by keeping your brand top of mind and recovering a would-be lost cart.

Capturing discount searches

Sometimes potential customers see ads and, instead of clicking, they look up the brand in their browser and search for discount codes or coupons. Like the above scenario, they could still end up making a purchase, but the ad attribution wouldn’t be there.

Tip: What you could measure instead is a boost in brand search terms when running your ads, as these shoppers will likely look for some variation of “[brand name] discount code.”

Mapping halo effects

Halo effects happen everywhere, but tracking them is difficult. In most cases, it requires establishing baselines before you begin ad campaigns, and then using that data to map total effects.

Most eCommerce stores already have a few ads running, either on Google or their marketplace channels. However, you can still…

  • Map and benchmark data (based on season and time of year) without ads wherever you can without affecting total sales. For example, you may want to turn ads off for a specific demographic, target, or product and see how this affects sales over a period of 30-90 days.
  • A/B test the same product on different landing pages or stores, with and without ads.
  • Directly ask customers how they found your product. Customers often don’t mind filling out post-purchase pop-up surveys, provided you keep the survey to one or two questions.

No company can determine halo effect attribution with 100% accuracy. Your best option is to set a baseline before running ads, and then track total effects across all sales channels after turning them on.

If your ad campaign is paying off or breaking even, you’re likely making a profit, more so than you can track. It’s always a good idea to optimize your website, product pages, and campaigns, operating under the assumption that you’re experiencing halo effects, so you can capture that traffic even when you can’t directly track it.

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