The concept that not all of the ways prospective shoppers enter a retailer's site are the same is hardly new. But Google has grabbed a lot of its data—specifically the click activity from 36,000 of its largest advertisers across 11 different industries in seven countries—to quantify which clicks have the biggest impact and to try to calculate how much of a bigger impact.
In one part of its report, Google split all prospect entries into "assist interactions"—which can be thought of as tire-kickers, very preliminary prospects—and "last interactions," which is the stage right before the purchase. A click on a display ad was the most remote from making a purchase, which must have been a bitter pill for Google to admit to. The number scale has "purchase" as a 0.0 and then lists search actions and ranks how far away they are from the purchase goal.
That display ad click (3.1 on the assist interaction scale—the worst click ranked) was six times farther removed from that purchase than a direct search for the desired product, which was 0.5 on the last interaction scale. Organic search was the second closest search (0.8). E-mail was a little less than half as far as display (1.4). A social site click was even worse, at 1.9.
But few transactions happen with one click. And even though the initial move—let's say, for example, that ad click—might be comparatively far removed from the purchase, it might be that key first step. Without those initial ad clicks, none of the other tactics might have had a chance. It's akin to concluding that the most important player in Walmart's purchases are the associates in the cashier role because they happen to be the final stage before purchase.
Another interesting takeaway: a correlation between average order size and length of purchase. Every salesperson likes quick purchases, as it gives the prospect less time to change their mind. The study found, for example, that technology purchases that take 28 days to complete tend to be triple the cost of tech purchases that happen with a single interaction.