How Online Media Coverage Drives Sales

In a previous post we explained how it is now possible to understand the impact online media coverage, which has become the main source of news for the UK population, has on consumer reaction and behaviour.  This ranges from driving Google searches to website visits and purchasing.  Here we take a step further forward to show and explain how online media coverage drives sales, in this case for Black Friday.

Black Friday has been around for a long time in the USA, with various reasons given for how it was named.  One claim is that North American shop assistants coined the term in response to the chaos created by the sheer number of shoppers taking advantage of the holiday season immediately after Thanksgiving.  Another is that accountants used black ink to record profits made by retailers on the day as opposed to the red ink used to record losses.  Whatever the reason, the UK’s love of retail therapy and a good bargain has also led to the term becoming popular in this country, driven mainly by the move to online shopping over the past 20 years.

Although some retailers avoid it, Black Friday is now firmly established in the retail calendar.  This has led to a highly competitive marketing environment during the build-up to Christmas, with huge volumes of media coverage devoted to it.  Of course, no expert data analyst is needed to understand that Black Friday media coverage will help drive sales.  However, such expertise can pull from this coverage the valuable insights necessary to generate significant business outcomes from well planned and implemented public relations.

To begin with, let us look at the relationship between online media coverage for Black Friday and Google searches, which are ideal for understanding real consumer interest.  Using Metricomm’s PRSV analysis, covered here in a previous post, figure 1 reveals the strong relationship between engaged audiences generated by online media coverage and Google searches for UK retailers regarding Black Friday.

We can immediately see from figure 1 that two brands – Argos and Currys – stand out from others, revealing how these retailers have been particularly effective at driving audience interest in their Black Friday deals and offers.  Here is powerful evidence that strong long-term positioning of brands through media coverage, in this case with compelling deals and offers, generate real and measurable business benefits and outcomes.

Another brand doing well is Boots, which led us to take a closer and more detailed look at data behind this particular retailer’s performance.  Before doing this, however, we must emphasise the importance of ensuring data is strong and the analysis rigorous and robust.  As any good data scientist will understand it is easy to find spurious correlations and patterns in data, all of which must be addressed during analysis.  Anyone interested in the technical aspects of how Metricomm achieves this can contact us to learn more.

Figure 2 shows just how effective online media coverage can be in driving consumer interest and behaviour, dramatically increasing the likelihood of purchase.  The red line in figure 2 shows consumer interest in the Boots No7 advent calendar tracked using Google searches.  Note how the Google searches line (red) relates to the blue line, which tracks the PRSV engaged audience for the Boots brand.  The yellow blocks on the chart indicate coverage specifically for the Boots No7 advent/beauty calendar.

Interest in the Boots No7 calendar is traditionally strong, with a lot of customers signing up for news of its launch.  The really crucial point here is the role played by online media coverage, revealed first in figure 2 by the clear relationship* between Google searches for the No7 calendar (red line) and PRSV engaged audience for the Boots brand (blue line); and, second, by peaks 1, 2 and 3 in that interest generated by the PRSV engaged audience for the calendar itself (yellow blocks).  It should come as no surprise that the calendar sold out almost immediately.

So, what can we take out from all this?  Most important is the realisation and understanding that online media coverage is extremely powerful at driving consumer behaviour and action.  Just as the Hubble telescope opened our eyes to things we never knew about the universe, so the PRSV engaged audience is opening our eyes to things we never knew about the true power and effectiveness of online media coverage.  This means PR should be placed at the very core of marketing activity.

This is tremendous news for the PR industry, which in order to take full advantage of the opportunity must accept PR is as much about communication science as it is about the art and creativity that have traditionally been its main focus.  This also requires the PR industry to embrace the technical aspects of data and analytics, which can and must be fully utilised in the same way as other marketing disciplines.

* Metricomm uses sophisticated and well proven statistical techniques to ensure the underlying patterns revealed in its analysis are robust, with a statistical significance of at least 98%