Open Navigation
Cardlytics Press Release

Clicks Don’t Matter

There is no correlation between a click and actual in-store or online spend.  That is not a typo, it is a truth that we continue to see across all categories with few exceptions.  Unfortunately, while as an industry we have become experts at driving efficient means to drive clicks, these clicks can’t be used to pay down overhead, invest in R&D or increase gross margin.  Clicks are not a currency.  Currency is a currency.

ouarethesunshinethatmakesmyday As marketers, we crave more deterministic methods to demonstrate that our marketing executions work (and, better understand how to fix them when they don’t).  We believed that clicks, as indicated by a consumer action, were a significant improvement versus the obvious limitations of measurement using circulation, placements, and estimated audiences. A click provided us a way to measure consumer action taken on ads across digital platforms. From these clicks, the first true pay-for-performance metric – cost-per-click or CPC – was born. But, CPC was deceptive. A click is only a proxy for consumer intent to buy, but it doesn’t tell us if a purchase is actually made.

Related to CPC, we use ROAS (or Return on Ad Spend) as a way to measure the return of our online campaigns. But, ROAS has two key flaws:

Attribution: Who gets the credit for the sale? Is it the last click? Do all clicks get a share? Should we divide sales among impressions and clicks? There are countless attribution companies to help marketers answer these questions, but they struggle to deliver a definitive answer.

Online to Offline Impact: Since digital marketing is often linked to online sales, companies tend to group them together – that is, digital marketers are evaluated on online sales. But, 92 percent of sales happen in stores, so how do we understand the impact these digital campaigns have on offline sales?

Digital marketing teams are held to the KPI of online sales because there are few alternative measures of effect and ROI. As a solution, I’d offer that there is a new currency for measurement: currency.

Working with our advertiser clients, we see that campaigns optimized on clicks – as with most programmatic buys – do deliver thousands of cost-efficient clicks. However, as counter intuitive as it seems, our experience is that clickers are not spenders.  In fact, they are just as likely to be spenders and non-clickers.  Therefore, optimizing on clicks will not provide the same level of actual purchases as that same advertising dollar could generate if targeted and measured based on spend likelihood. We help marketers optimize campaigns based on true sales. Our patented method links online consumer behavior – like exposure to an online display ad, frequency, creative – to online and offline purchases to help marketers accurately evaluate the true sales impact of their efforts.  Digital advertising works.  If we optimize for currency, returns will increase significantly.

Want to read more from about why sales trump clicks as the best metric for marketing effectiveness? Read our full white paper at

Get our insights delivered to you

Stay up to date. Subscribe now.

Research & Insights

Cardlytics Research and Insights

Finding Your Space: Three Tips for Women in Data Science

Coined by the Harvard Business Review as the ‘sexiest job of the 21st century, ‘data science’ still feels like a term invented only yesterday (and ‘women in data science’ seems even newer). And what does a data scientist do anyways? You could ask 100 professionals and get about 100 different answers.   I thought being a data scientist meant that you needed a very specific set of skills […]

3 Minute Read
Cardlytics Research and Insights

State of Apparel: Athleisure Reigned Supreme in 2021

As the pandemic raged through 2020, apparel sales plummeted a record 77% while we all stayed home in our comfortable old clothes.  But the slump began to turn around in early 2021 as vaccines unleashed restless shoppers from quarantine. We were finally going out—and were ready to trade in those baggy sweatpants for a new look.  4 Key Takeaways for […]

4 Minute Read
Cardlytics Research and Insights

Restaurant & Grocery: The Showdown Is On

Which industry will take the bulk of consumer spend?  What used to be considered two separate household budgets, one for groceries and one for dining out, has morphed into one overall food budget, thanks to pandemic-led shifts in how people eat. More dinners are being eaten at home causing restaurants to expand into delivery and take-out options. Meanwhile, grocery stores braced for a surge in traffic as more consumers requested delivery or curbside pick-up. While all industries faced upheaval during […]

2 Minute Read