Do Online Behavior Tracking or Attitude Survey Metrics Drive Brand Sales? An Integrative Model of Attitudes and Actions on the Consumer Boulevard

Koen Pauwels and Bernadette van Ewijk, 2013, 13-118

Some marketers suggest that online behavior metrics have supplanted the classic purchase funnel and its attitudinal metrics. Both measures have advantages: online behavior metrics offer the benefits of timeliness and passive tracking, and classic attitude survey metrics use representative samples and have improved over decades of market research. Which metrics are best at explaining and predicting sales?

Koen Pauwels and Bernadette van Ewijk  address this question for 36 brands over 15 categories, including services, durables, and fast-moving consumer goods in the Netherlands. They develop dynamic system models to capture interactions among metrics, between marketing and metrics, and between metrics and sales.

Their empirical analysis demonstrates that both attitude survey and online behavior metrics matter for sales explanation and prediction across a wide variety of (business-to-consumer) categories. Overall, online behavior metrics excel in sales explanation, while attitude survey metrics excel in sales prediction. This suggests that online behavior metrics are ideal for tactical planning, and attitude survey metrics are important in strategic planning.

Importantly, the authors find that online action does not simply follow from attitudes, it also drives them. New online metrics such as search, clicks, and website visits often Granger-cause attitude survey metrics. In other words, online activity substantially changes the decisions of at least some customers and can predict subsequent survey responses.

The authors propose an integrative model of consumer actions and attitudes as a “boulevard” of fast consumer actions (mostly online) and slower moving attitudes (mostly captured by surveys) and quantify how specific marketing actions can improve both types of metrics. Their model recognizes that consumers may go back and forth between search, awareness, website visits, consideration, and own loyalty and that consumers may be influenced by the expressed experience of others.

For managers, the consumer boulevard provides “toll booths” of online consumer behavior, which do show a funnel-like structure of shrinking elasticities. Quantifying these conversions for their own brand would enable managers to address weak links and take remedial action with both online and offline marketing instruments. For example, online marketing offers a high elasticity in changing both attitudes and actions, and TV advertising is a key driver of engagement metrics such as page views and social media conversations.

Koen Pauwels is Professor of Marketing at Ozyegin University, Turkey, and Bernadette van Ewijk is Executive Program and Member Service Coordinator, AiMark.

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Related links

Which Metrics Matter Most for Brand Sales? (2014) [Article]

Which Advertising Forms Make a Difference in Online Path to Purchase?
Evert de Haan, Thorsten Wiesel, and Koen Pauwels (2013) [Report]



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