Mother’s Day Switcheroo: Cross-Shopping Homepage Advertisers

The biggest day of the year for the flower industry is Mother’s Day. As a follow up to our study of Valentine’s Day advertising, we took a look at homepage ads that ran ahead of this crucial holiday, when weekly traffic to major flower retailer sites can shoot up as much as 500%.

Once again, 1800Flowers.com and ProFlowers.com took out full-day banner ads on the AOL.com, MSN.com and Yahoo.com homepages. As Ad Age‘s Michael Learmonth has written, homepage ad campaigns are "national in scope, approach the reach of TV ad campaigns and are high-impact and expensive."

Clearly ProFlowers was the winner in this head-to-head match up on viewthrough and conversion"¦ but what about homepage visitors who saw a ProFlowers ad, but didn’t end up buying there?

A homepage visitor may have seen a ProFlowers ad, visited the site and then decided to shop around for a better deal. This kind of online cross-shopping is especially common in commodity categories like flower retailing and is evident in the search queries conducted after an ad exposure.

Also, sometimes ad viewers unconsciously register ad impressions and attribute them to the advertiser’s competitor. This is especially true if the ad viewer is loyal to the competitor or if the competitor has other ads in-market or a stronger brand.

In either case, cross-shopping or miss-attribution, the advertiser loses out on a potential sale.

The charts above shows purchases made by 1-800-Flowers and ProFlowers ad exposed groups. We kept the groups mutually exclusive to ensure that viewers of one homepage ad were not influenced by the other.

It shows a surprising data point: ProFlowers came up winning more purchases than any other flower retailer — even more than 1-800-Flowers ad viewers who did not see a ProFlowers ad!

That’s incredible given the cost of homepage ads (upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single day) and makes me hope, for 1-800-Flowers’ sake, that ProFlowers ran a lot of other ads, not just on portal homepages.

Also surprising: even though it won more purchases than any other flower retailer, ProFlowers still captured less than 50% of purchases from homepage visitors exposed to their ads. FTD took a full quarter of purchases made by ProFlower’s ad viewers and 1-800-Flowers took another 22%.

That means that despite everything ProFlowers does well, from a huge ad budget to dynamic landing pages to an optimized conversion funnel, they still lose out on a significant share of interest that they originated. What can ProFlowers do to counteract? For one, take a closer look at their cross-shopping customers. Who knew Mother’s Day could be so cut-throat?

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