The wide variety of offers, channels and price points lead to a multitude of conversion times, but we break down the characteristics of each.

We were curious, like you, to know the answer to this question: what marketing channels provide the fastest time to conversion?

Luckily, we have access to one of the best data sources to answer this question: the LeadsRx database of client campaigns. Combining this anonymous data with reports from the likes of HubSpot, MailChimp, CallRail, and other LeadsRx integrated parters, we are able to provide a breakdown on the most common channel conversion times.

There are surveys and studies on top of surveys and studies of professional marketers that seek to put an end to the “this-channel-is-best” discussion but, as we expected, no two sets of results are the same. Factors influencing these varying results include: businesses measure return on investment (ROI) differently depending on their marketing goals; some enterprises don’t rely solely on “sales” as its key metric of measurement; and even the definition of ROI can vary – one business measures sales revenue, while the other measures traffic to its website, leads captured, brand awareness, or another metric a niche business may choose.

We believe return on ad spend (ROAS) is the most important KPI. More than knowing individual channel conversion times, it’s vital to know what “steps” are taken on a customer’s journey, and adding weight/credit to each.

Multi-Channel Customer Journeys are Standard

The real issue is that rarely, if ever, does a customer journey follow ONE channel from inquiry to conversion (purchase of product or service). It’s possible your website is built to attract customers organically, get them to view the product or service, and buy with a matter of a few clicks. But if that were the case, and if it were that easy, no one would invest in marketing at all. The bottom line is, in today’s landscape, your campaigns need to be multi-channel (or omni-channel) in order to succeed.

It’s not impossible for an enterprise to have an SEO sensei that crafts and includes the perfect keywords to website copy, blog posts, and online and offline advertising that leads would-be buyers to its site like the Pied Piper. But even the most masterful copywriter has to have a place for that copy to live. Now we’re likely, and realistically, talking multiple channels beyond your own website.

Again, it’s not inconceivable a shopper came straight to your site URL with blinders on, added a purchase to his or her cart, and clicked “buy” – especially if they are a repeat customer and are simply reordering a product or re-upping a service agreement – but at some point in their customer journey they had to initially learn about you and your product or service.

Which Channels Convert the Fastest?

Well, it turns out, it really isn’t that simple. Different products/services have different offers – and when they come from different companies at different price points – the time to conversion per channel can vary widely. While we can’t determine which channel serves up conversions the fastest for your campaigns, we are able to deduce the following break down of the top 8 channels found in most customer journeys.

Email Marketing Conversion Times – Speed Ranges Widely.

  • Discount ecommerce offers convert instantly, but something like financial services may take months to convert.
  • Email consistently ranks at the top or near the top of the list of best channels in all most all customer journeys.
  • Email is the glue that connects all of the other communication touchpoints together.

Takeaway: Write awesome emails and offer something useful to the person viewing it, or give them an offer they can’t refuse. There is almost a 100% chance your customers will have email in their journeys – make it awesome.

Referral Traffic Conversion Times – Fast.

  • Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool and, like email, is typically a top performer for lots of businesses.
  • When customers come in after being referred, they don’t need the long sales process – they are ready to convert right away because they already trust the brand.
  • Referrals are created through experiences, not bought through advertising.
  • Referral traffic, unlike word-of-mouth referrals, does not convert quite as fast, but it is the Internet equivalent of a human referral.

Takeaway: Have a solid product or service, provide great customer service, and ask your customers to tell a friend or two about the experience they had with your company.

Paid Search Conversion Times – Fast.

  • Consumers are out searching for information on goods and services – when they search with the intent of “where to buy jeans,” the conversion times are fast.
  • The right message at the right time with paid ads on Google, Yahoo, or Bing can lead to almost instant conversions.
  • Remarketing campaigns are used in longer sales cycles where customers need to be reminded of key benefits.

Takeaway: Paid ads, especially on Google or Facebook, are effective means, but should be constantly monitored for effectiveness. Know your average sales cycle, and plan your spend accordingly (not just on lead acquisition).

Organic Search Conversion Times – Average Speed.

  • Almost all buying journeys start with online research – so this channel takes a long time to ultimately convert.
  • Organic search leads to a lot of competitive comparison and is a top-of-funnel touchpoint.
  • Search terms, interest and prospect qualification vary widely so you never know what the quality of traffic is that you are getting.
  • Oftentimes searchers are looking for something free to research.

Takeaway: Less than 20% of consumers use Bing or Yahoo; Google is king. If you want fast conversions from SEO, you better be fully optimized. Here’s some good information defining paid and organic search.

Direct Traffic Conversion Times – Fast.

  • If customers are coming directly to you, they are already pretty far into their journey.
  • Direct traffic indicates strong brand awareness and category leadership.
  • A lot of direct traffic is existing customers or prospects making incremental conversions – which may distort your customer acquisition strategies.
  • Direct traffic is a hard metric to directly increase, but broadcast campaigns are a great way to drive more direct traffic and awareness.

Takeaway: You can’t expect to optimize for more direct traffic, instead leverage other channels for brand awareness and the direct traffic will come.

Social Media Conversion Times – Organic is Slow; Paid is Fast.

  • Building an engaged following is difficult and time consuming. These customer journeys are long, but very valuable.
  • Paid ads can drive “impulse buys” almost instantly with strong offers and calls to action – but don’t expect to build long-term customer lifetime value this way.
  • Social ads allow you to track the person and push them through the pipeline – faster than other paid channels such as Google Ads.

Takeaway: Authentic organic content is needed for long-term success and longer-term sales cycles, but short-term ad campaigns can provide immediate return.

Broadcast Advertising Conversion Times – Average.

  • Broadcast (TV and radio) are solid channels for promoting brand recognition and highlighting sales or deals on goods and services.
  • Building awareness and getting a consumer to take action can require a significant number of impressions.
  • Offline/broadcast is a great way to support other digital direct-response campaigns.

Takeaway: Though hard to measure without multi-touch attribution, some industries (auto dealers for one) have found incredible “lift” in web traffic thanks to these traditional, offline channels.

Other channels – Some channels that “also received votes” in some of the surveys we examined include events, webinars, partner programs (could fall under referrals), inbound (phone calls to your business), and outbound (cold-calling to prospects).

What this all proves is that no one consistent path is typically taken by every consumer and it depends on the offer and industry. Each customer, and potential conversion, finds their own way.

As a marketer, we want to optimize those journeys, and the ad campaigns which drive them – that is what attribution is all about.

It’s why attribution is so important, and why it is a tool more and more marketers are turning to so their “educated guesses” of what parts of their marketing campaigns are working are replaced with reliable, impartial data showing exactly what is and what is not working.

Identifying the Customer Journey

The LeadsRx Marketing Attribution platform puts the power of data and insights in the palm of the enterprise marketer’s hands. Take a car-buying experience, for instance. Imagine being able to know that your customer’s journey to conversion looked exactly like this:

  • While driving to work, the consumer hears an ad on the radio for your dealership’s holiday sales promotion.
  • After arriving at work and checking emails, she searches for your company name on Google, and a paid ad points her to your URL.
  • She logs in to her laptop and browses through your inventory, narrowing down the make and model she is most interested in.
  • She clicks on a form asking for more information, providing her basic contact information, including email.
  • One of your sales associates leaves a message saying they’d be happy to provide more information; she calls back and gets the few details she wanted to know more about.
  • A week later, she sees a TV ad promoting your holiday sale.
  • The following weekend, she visits your showroom armed with her online research.
  • She  also checked your dealership’s reviews on Facebook.
  • She talked to friends and coworkers who recently purchased a vehicle.
  • She test drives two cars, both of which she likes, and decides to buy.

That’s a lot of steps. Only through impartial, multi-touch attribution, would you be able to accurately attribute the sale across the full journey – from the consumer hearing a radio ad, to filling out the form online, to seeing the TV ad, to visiting the showroom and “converting.”

Once you have that attribution data, you have the insights needed to optimize across your channels to spend less on ads and earn more in revenue.