Atlas Solutions

Atlas Insights Series: Most Conversions Occur Without a Click

By James Dailey, Head of Atlas Insights |

Since the advent of online advertising, search and display channels have jockeyed for their share of digital marketing budgets. Search proponents show that conversions tend to follow clicks on the path to purchase, while display advocates argue that consumers wouldn’t be searching – and therefore clicking – without motivation from prior display advertising. Who searches for “Canon EOS Rebel T3i” without prior passive exposure to Canon cameras?

Based on a broad sample of Atlas clients across verticals and regions, we observe that the vast majority of conversions are not preceded by an ad click at any point in the path to purchase. However, people who do click on ads tend to convert at higher rates.

Consider the case of a major hotel advertiser. For this hotel chain, which employs both search and display tactics, we found that while the majority of users never click on the hotel’s ads, they do convert nonetheless. In fact, approximately 80% of online reservations over the course of a month came from users who saw, but never clicked on, an ad.

Similarly, for an advertiser of technology hardware: nearly 85% of purchases happened with impressions only, no clicks. Those who did click on an ad converted at rates 3x higher than non-clickers, though.

For both of the examples above, the likelihood of a purchase is higher following a click rather than an impression alone. This isn’t surprising, since clickers demonstrate their interest by proactively clicking on an ad. However, the vast majority of converters skip the click and purchase the product with only ad views in the preceding history.

As a marketer, keep your eyes on the real goal – the purchase, not the click. If you’re solely optimizing for ad clicks, then you’re missing 80-85% of your sales and not optimizing for your business’ results.