April 01, 2014

Marketing Research Chart: Average clickthrough rates by industry

SUMMARY: "We would like to increase our conversion rate to 2% by the end of the year, focusing our e-plan on our website," a Benchmark Report survey response stated.

What should my company's clickthrough rate be? Is that rate good or bad? What is the average clickthrough rate for peers in my industry? What can we learn from it?

Those first two questions are nearly impossible to answer, but we'll dive into the third and fourth questions in this MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week.
by Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content

In the Website Optimization Benchmark Report survey, we asked marketers to:

Please write in your organization's average clickthrough rate.

View Chart Online

Click here to see a printable version of this chart

It is nearly impossible to say what your company's clickthrough rate should be, and I'm guessing the opinion will vary greatly depending on where it comes from.

Likewise, good and bad are relative terms.

We can, however, give you a very general idea of how clickthrough rates vary by industry. The above data is inherently flawed for a few reasons. You should evaluate this data with a grain of salt for these reasons:

  • While having a focus group of 123 marketers would certainly provide some valuable insights, it can’t possibly represent every company in existence

  • The problem with averages in statistics is that a few outliers can really skew the results

  • This data is based on survey results — marketers' self-reported metrics — that may deviate from actual performance

Given these limitations, we can still make a few overarching observations that lead us to possible conclusions based not on the conversion rates themselves, but rather, the variability among industries.

Providing value first before asking for payment (tangible value)

Marketers from the media and publishing industry report a 20% average clickthrough rate.

Software and software-as-a-service (SaaS) marketers reported a robust 19% clickthrough rate.

This may be because these two industries tend to provide a lot of value to customers before requesting payment.

For example, media and publishing tend to have free content in some form before requiring a subscription. Software and SaaS companies offer free trials, demos or free versions of software in the form of freeware.

In this way, these industries make the value of products very tangible. Customers can experience the value first-hand before being hit with the cost.

One way to ensure content keeps providing value is to keep it fresh and new, as one marketer reported in the Benchmark Report survey:
"We use a lot of 'free reports,' free and paid webinars, teleseminars, white papers and free CDs to generate leads. We found they seem to have a 'lifespan' after which the number of new leads generated by a given 'freemium' drops significantly. Our goal is to come up with different ones to offer each month. Newest ones always get the most new leads."

Intangible value is harder for marketers to communicate

It's hard out there for a nonprofit marketer, whose peers reported only a 7% conversion rate. The same rates also go for for education or health care.

In fact, if you look at most industries reporting a single digit conversion rate, these marketers face a similar problem — the value of the conversion is often intangible.

Let's take nonprofits as an example. If one is asked to "donate today to keep our river clean," there is a real challenge to make the value of this conversion tangible. After all, the customer clearly knows the value of the $100 in their pocket. But what is the value of a clean river, especially if they don't live on the river? An even bigger challenge: What is the effect of that $100 donation on cleaning up the river?

An e-commerce marketer also faces this challenge, because …

Every physical product sold online is intangible

At least until the customer receives it.

Every conversion goal falls along a spectrum from intangible to tangible. The challenge for marketers is to move their conversion goals as much as possible to the tangible end of the spectrum. You may:

  • Share videos of a previous event before asking people to buy tickets to your upcoming event

  • Offer a free excerpt of a book for sale or even a white paper excerpt before requiring a lead gen form fill to get that white paper

  • Produce a video not for the intent of selling, but to show your product in action and how real customers actually use it

  • Be extremely transparent about where money goes in your nonprofit and create a number or index to show how well (or poorly) your organization is doing at creating the value you’re selling

Here's a tangible example that might be helpful to nonprofit and other marketers. The California State Parks Foundation launched a campaign asking people to "sponsor a vehicle" for $18 each after Proposition 21 was defeated. The ballot initiative would have added $18 to car registrations to fund state parks and wildlife conservation, so it was a natural (and tangible) fit.

The result: A very tangible $59,000 from this one campaign. You can read more about this effort in the MarketingSherpa Blog post: "Customer-centric Marketing: Tap into your culture to differentiate from the competition."

Related Resources

Email Marketing: 17.36% higher average clickthrough rate in 7 personalized subject line tests

Email Marketing: User-generated content helps drive 16% clickthrough rate

Email Marketing: Whirlpool lifts clickthrough rate 42%, creates testing culture

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