More evidence that online advertising does not work

Your online customers are really only interested in vouchers and special offers

Your online customers are really only interested in vouchers and special offers

Social networkers are a savvy lot – that means you and me and you and all your customers and potential clients; everyone, in fact. According to a new study by LinkShare almost all forms of advertising fail to attract anything much in the way of engagement or usage. The banner adverts, so common around the web, were only of interest to 6% of people in a study of 2,000 consumers. In other words, 94% of us ignore them. This confirms a similar study in 2009 which also showed that online advertising is a waste of money.

The new study did, however, also underscore the fact that email marketing is much more valuable. Some 22% of people in this LinkShare study said that emails they received from advertisers were useful in helping them make purchasing decisions. This backs up earlier research which shows that email marketing is much more likely to produce sales than web marketing.

According to LinkShare, adverts in general – including the presence of a brand on Facebook – is only of interest to around 2% of people. In other words, 98% of people ignore ads. Clearly, you should not be wasting your money on them. Not good news if you are an advertising agency of course.

That is, unless you look at the one thing this new study shows people really do like. Just under 50% of people on social networks say that vouchers, coupons and other similar special offers are useful when making purchasing decisions. In other words, ordinary advertising doesn’t work online, but “special offer” advertising does.

This is nothing of any real kind of surprise. Coupons and vouchers have been a staple of advertising for decades; all the leading retailers use them, so clearly they work. There are several sites offering you the latest coupons and voucher codes but what is interesting when you look at the lists of companies involved is the fact that the vast majority are old, bricks and mortar, long-established brands. In other words, coupons and vouchers are entrenched in the company marketing culture.

There must be a reason for that. And the reason is they have discovered over the years that vouchers, coupons and special offers work. Customers like to think they are getting something special, that they are forcing the company to give up some profit, that they have something “over the company”. It is, of course, complete tosh; deep down we realise that the savings are not real, that they are built in to the company’s overall system. But we like them anyway.

So, if established retailers use them, if we all know they work and if the latest research about online advertising shows they are the only form of advert that really works online, why are most Internet businesses ignoring them? Giving high profile to your coupons and special offer vouchers, particularly in email marketing campaigns, is an activity that is highly likely to bring you extra sales. It has worked well for traditional business – and the latest evidence shows it is the best thing for online companies as well.


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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
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