Research by Metricomm has revealed that online media coverage can achieve the same level of online sales as TV advertising. Metricomm combined the share of audiences generated by online media coverage for UK supermarkets over 2018 and 2019, which are the most recent years when data was not affected by the pandemic, with TV advertising spend and Google shopping data for the same period. Market mix modelling revealed that 75% of Google shopping data could be explained by TV advertising and online media coverage, with contributions of 51% and 49%, respectively, at a significance level of 99.2%.
Although these findings have massive implications for the communication industries – 24.2% of all retail sales are now carried out online (ONS, Aug 2022) – Metricomm emphasises they do not mean TV advertising can be replaced by online media coverage. What they do mean is that the impact of online media coverage is far greater than has previously been recognised and that its combined effectiveness with advertising is highly likely to increase sales significantly.
Metricomm says the reason online media coverage is so powerful is down to how consumers now make buying decisions, with over 90% turning to search, typically Google, and then using the web throughout the purchasing journey. The very nature of online media coverage means that carrying out a search and web browsing are only ever one phone-tap or mouse-click away. Furthermore, online media coverage inherently sits on the web for long periods and frequently appears in search results, amplifying its effectiveness.
Another crucial finding of the Metricomm research is how TV advertising plays an important role in boosting the effectiveness of online media coverage in generating sales and vice versa. Figure 1 reveals a strong exponential relationship between the share of audience from online media coverage and Google Shopping for UK supermarket brands between 2016 to 2022 (figure 2 is the same as figure 1 but excludes Asda simply to emphasise this relationship).
A key point here is that Tesco and Asda are the biggest TV advertisers of all UK supermarkets, jointly accounting for almost 30% of grocery retail advertising spend. This largely explains their much higher positions on Figure 1, which also reveals a combined 68% share of Google Shopping returns for the two brands from online media coverage. This is a remarkably high figure that demonstrates, first, how effective online media coverage can be; and, second, how advertising, marketing and PR can amplify the effectiveness of each other.
Interestingly, Asda’s position on the graph reveals the brand is achieving much higher shares of Google Shopping than Sainsbury’s or Aldi despite having a similar share of audience from online media coverage. There are a number of reasons why this is likely to be happening, but most likely is Asda’s high share of online grocery and beverage shopping, which at 38% is just one per cent lower than Tesco and 13% higher than third-placed Sainsbury’s (Statista).
Figure 1. Share of audience generated by online media coverage for supermarkets versus share of Google shopping for supermarkets in the UK from 2016 to 2022
Figure 2. Share of audience generated by online media coverage for supermarkets versus share of Google shopping for supermarkets in the UK from 2016 to 2022. Here, Asda has been excluded simply to highlight the relationship