How different formats and devices impact view and sales conversion rates

Nearly 1 billion Facebook impressions over three months were analysed by iProspect’s Head of Research and Development, Angus Wood, to explore the impact that social content formats and device have on a brand’s marketing objectives. Read on to find out what they revealed

Angus Wood, Head of Research and Development, iProspect UK

Are all social formats created equal?

On a platform where upwards of 6 billion content pieces are shared globally each day, brands and marketers are constantly looking for the most effective ways to enter the conversation and be heard. With UK advertisers predicted to spend over £750m on Facebook in 2015, the need to understand which types of ad content drive particular business objectives is more pressing than ever. The old marketing holy grail – reaching the right person, with the right message, at the right time – is more achievable than ever with Facebook’s suite of audience targeting options. But social content marketing also introduces a new set of complexities: the format of a piece of content is clearly part of its ‘message’, while the device on which it’s viewed is a key part of its context. To be effective, smart marketers must unpick how all of these different variables interact for the most impact.

iProspect’s R&D team, the Ideas Institute, has analysed an aggregated and anonymised data set of almost 1 billion Facebook ad impressions from November 2014 to February 2015 for the CMA, to put scientific rigour behind this creative process. We looked at two key ways to cut the data: first, which Facebook formats perform most effectively for particular objectives, such as video views or sales; and second, how users’ propensity to complete these objectives is affected by the device on which they saw the content.

Is there a magic formula for format and content?

We began by considering which format works most effectively for particular content types and objectives – video views, page likes, clicks-to-site. Facebook offers advertisers a range of different ad formats, optimised for these different objectives. Unsurprisingly, our data showed that the specialist formats are very good at specialist jobs. Link page posts drove far and away the highest revenue, while the video ad format generates the highest number of views for a given video, making it the obvious choice for promoting a brand video. But where a user sees an ad also affects their likelihood to respond. Mobile was the video engagement platform of choice: the completed video view rate on mobile (0.49%) was twice as high as that on desktop (0.24%). But conversely, users who had seen ads (of whatever format) on a desktop were over five times more likely to go on to make an online purchase than those who had seen ads on a mobile device, generating £15.45 of revenue per 1,000 impressions versus £3.45 on mobile.

Mobile better for views, while desktop better for sales

Returning to the formats, the halo effect post-view on conversion is more intriguing. Our data set pointed out that users who had engaged with a video post spent 42% more, on average, than an image-based ad alone. Neither format is intended specifically to drive conversion (and both were dwarfed by the more DR–focused link posts driving users direct to site). But it was clear on our evidence that Facebook video represented a much more attractive option for marketers who want to get an additional DR output for their brand spend.

iPad top device for conversion

Perhaps the most striking pattern emerged when we compared revenue generated across different operating devices.

Those who viewed Facebook ads on iOS were markedly more likely to buy than Android users – though desktop platforms came second overall. There is of course a balance to be struck between ROI and volume: while iPad users are the most ‘valuable’, they account for only a little over 12% of total spend value, while desktop made up 40%. The desktop audience still remains the biggest revenue driver, then, even if less efficient.

Clearly the picture is nuanced: we aren’t going to advise our clients to allocate all of their Facebook spend towards iPad users. But there are some hard insights into which tactics, formats and platforms will be most efficient for particular objectives and should be prioritised. Mobile video is growing powerfully, and is more likely to get both view starts and completes – so if you’re only making one edit, make it for mobile first, and desktop second. Better yet, invest in multiple creative executions, where more sales focused messaging in video is targeted to desktop users. But perhaps most important of all is that this kind of data-heavy, aggregated approach gives hard results for creative choices.

Five ways to get great results from your content marketing campaigns

1. Invest in video

Video viewers spend more than photo viewers at the checkout

2. Think mobile

Consumption of content is broadly stronger on mobile

3. Stay nuanced

E-commerce revenue is still driven by desktop exposure

4. Think about hardware

The choices people make as to where, and on what device, they consume content means they behave differently when they encounter it

5. Think scientifically

Data analysis and artistic endeavour are complementary in modern content marketing, and need to support one another

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