What is ROI, How to Calculate Return on Investment?

We’ve already talked about the definition of one important metric for business: the lifetime value of a customer, or CLV. In this article, we’ll tell you about another important indicator and its meaning: ROI. With it, you can identify effective channels to attract customers and, as a result, more wisely manage your budget for advertising campaigns.

OWOX BI will help you merge data from different systems and automate reports of any complexity: advertising campaigns, cohort analysis, ROPO, CPA, ROI, ROAS, LTV, CAC, attribution, and many others.

What is Return on Investment (ROI)?

Return on investment (ROI) measures the efficiency of an investment. The definition of ROI is a ratio of income from an investment to the expenses to finance that investment. The higher the ratio is, the more benefit you earn. 

ROI is often confused with two other similar metrics: ROMI and ROAS.

​​ROMI is an indicator of marketing ROI that is used to measure the overall effectiveness of all marketing activities and helps marketers better allocate marketing budgets. It is calculated as the ratio of income from marketing efforts to marketing costs (salary, etc.).

ROAS, or return on ad spend, is commonly used to measure the performance of a particular campaign, ad group, particular ad, or even a single keyword. With ROAS, you can evaluate any aspect of your internet marketing activities. Want to know if a particular ad set is worth your time and money? Check your ROAS. Want to know if the targeting changes you've made are working? Check your ROAS.

Most often, ROAS and ROMI are expressed as a percentage, but sometimes in the form of a coefficient.

Benefits of calculating ROI

For different businesses, the figures are different: some businesses can make money with a very low ROI; others may need a relatively high ROI to avoid losing money on digital advertising. But one rule stands for all: return on investment must be positive.

By observing the dynamics of changes in reports, you can redistribute your budget to more effective advertising channels. If your company spends more on Google Ads than it gets in return, spending on Google Ads should be invested, for example, in the Google organic channel in order to increase revenue if this channel is more effective.

ROI (ROMI) and ROAS Calculation

Let’s look at an example for a better understanding of how to calculate return on investment.

Imagine you sell a product through your site. You have a budget that you’re willing to spend on Google Ads. Suppose it’s $1,000 per month. You launch a campaign, everything is going fine, and by the end of the month, your income from advertising campaigns is $6,000.

The formula for calculating ROAS is:

ROAS = Total sales generated through advertising / Total advertising costs х 100%

Let’s calculate ROAS based on our example: $6000 / $1000 х 100% = 600%​

So for every dollar you spend, you earn $6 in profit. Not bad for advertising on one channel.

To calculate return on investment, you need to include salaries and all associated marketing costs. For example, say you paid $200 for a PPC specialist to set up this ad plus $50 to the copywriter who wrote the ad.

General formula for calculating ROI:

ROI = (income — costs) / costs × 100%

ROI calculation: ($6000 — ($1000 + $200 + $50) / ($1000 + $200 + $50)) x 100% = 380%

What does this mean for you? Well, it means that for every dollar you spent, you earned $3.8 in profit.

Although ROI (ROMI) and ROAS are similar, it is important not to confuse these indicators, as this can lead to serious mistakes. For example, ROI of 100% means that you earned twice as much as you spent. But ROAS of 100% means that you have broken even.

It seems that everything is simple and easy to calculate. But for a more correct ROI calculation, a marketer needs to take into account many nuances.

Limitations of ROI

At first glance, ROI is a simple and understandable indicator that can be calculated without problems, but there are a few nuances to keep in mind.

1) Choose the right attribution model to make accurate calculations

In a simple case, a user clicks on an ad and makes a purchase. This revenue clearly belongs to the ROI calculation we’ve mentioned above. But what if the user clicks but doesn’t buy right then? What if someone clicks on your ad, goes to your website but closes it, then three weeks later sees a post for your product on Facebook, clicks on it, goes to your website, memorizes the URL and closes the site, and then a month later goes directly to your website by typing in the URL and makes a purchase? You could argue that this customer should be counted in the calculation for the initial ad because they first found your store via that ad campaign. Or you could argue that the Facebook post should get the credit since that was the last click before the purchase. A third option would be to split the revenue between the initial ad and the Facebook post.

The attribution model you choose determines how much credit your initial ad gets for this customer. What’s important is that you pick a single attribution model and use it consistently when comparing ROAS across channels and campaigns.

To objectively distribute the value of an order, it’s necessary to evaluate not just the last session but each buyer session. This is why we suggest using a ML attribution model.

Take a look at the report below that we’ve created for one of our clients. We found that the value (revenue from orders) assigned to advertising channels as a result of funnel-based attribution differs from that obtained by using the Last Non-Direct Click model. That is, if you use Last Non-Direct Click attribution model, ROAS will be different from the real numbers.

ROI report

2) Take into account all factors affecting revenue

Let’s take a look at a couple of things that might affect revenue.

Your best sales manager has switched to another company.

You’ve changed a supplier, affecting the timing of delivery for certain goods. At the same time, you’ve launched an advertising campaign and have many potential buyers — but there are no goods available. As a result, you have decreased ROMI, but this has nothing to do with advertising and marketing.

To find a real-life example of the importance of a funnel-based attribution model, read our case study on how a company optimized ad spend by creating an effective campaign scoring system.

3) Account for differences in costs (hard to calculate the average check)

Imagine this. Last month you paid $100 to ship an order to Europe. But this month, your shipping service has raised their prices and now you need to pay $100 for shipping to US customers and $200 for shipping the same product to European customers. Or perhaps your customers preordered some expensive products due to an ad on Facebook. As a result, your ROMI may decline, although your marketing strategy is correct.

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Maksim Ostapenko

Project manager OWOX

Мария Петренко
Mariia Petrenko

Sales Support Manager at OWOX BI

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Annualized ROI Formula

One of the disadvantages of the regular return on investment calculation is that it doesn’t consider time periods. For example, a 20% return for 3 years is the same as a 20% return for 3 days, even though a 20% return in 3 days is better than 3 years. To deal with this issue, use an annualized ROI formula.

For example, if you invest $10 in advertising on January 1, 2020 for $10 and receive $12 revenue from it on June 25, 2020, the regular and annualized formulas will be the following:

Regular formula

($12 – $10) / $10×100%= 20%

Annualized formula

[ ($12 / $10) ^ (1 / ((Jun 25 – Jan 1)/365)) ] −1 = 0.46 or 46%

Annualized ROI formula

Therefore, even though a regular return on investment ratio is 20%, the same figures in longer perspective give you more profit. The annualized rate of return and annual return differ because the former one also includes the sum of investment earnings over time.

​​How to automate ROI and ROAS calculation

With OWOX BI, you can measure the effectiveness of your campaigns more deeply and automatically compare ROAS and ROMI, display results on a dashboard in OWOX BI Smart Data, Google Sheets, or Data Studio. As a result, you’ll be able to make conclusions about the payback of a channel based on complete data and will be able to properly allocate your budget.

In order to have a complete picture while comparing ad channels, you need to:

  1. Set up data transfer from advertising services (Facebook, Criteo, etc.) to Google Analytics via OWOX BI Pipeline, combining this data with behavioral data from your website.
  2. Configure OWOX BI Attribution.
  3. Build the necessary reports in OWOX BI Smart Data.

In the Results tab of OWOX BI Smart Data, there are several predefined reports:

ROI in OWOX BI Smart Data

Benefits of Smart Data:

  • No special technical background or knowledge of SQL is required.
  • To generate a report you can use any popular templates or select the metrics you need in the OWOX BI Report Builder, or enter a question in the search box.
  • You can copy SQL queries generated by a serviceI. You can then modify those queries or use them, for example, to automate a data-based report in Google Sheets or BigQuery.
  • For reports, Smart Data uses data stored in your Google BigQuery project. You retain complete control over access to that data using a Google account and two-factor authorization.
  • You can find more reports in the Smart Data service itself and in the support section.

What is considered a good ROI?

So, you realize the importance of ROI calculation. But what should you do with the data you receive? What ROI is considered to be good and what is considered to be bad?

Every business has its own ideal ROI. But one rule applies to everyone: ROI must be positive, and ROAS must be above 100%.

By monitoring the dynamics of changes in ROI in reports, you can reallocate your advertising budget to more effective advertising channels.


Measuring the return on marketing and business investments is a must. These metrics will help you find out where you really should invest in order to earn more. You should start setting up data collection and calculating ROI from the moment you start thinking about business and marketing costs.

When calculating return on investment, you need to:

  • Choose the right attribution model​
  • Define your income and costs
  • Consider the full sales cycle

Let us know in the comments if you still have questions about ROI. We’ll answer them in a short time.


Expand all Close all
  • What is ROI and how is it calculated?

    Return on investment measures the revenue attributed to a particular investment.
  • What is a good ROI?

    For different businesses, the figures are different: some businesses can make money with a very low ROI; others may need a relatively high ROI to avoid losing money on digital advertising. But one rule stands for all: return on investment must be positive (above 100%).
  • What is a 50% ROI?

    A 50% return on investment means that you get $0.5 for each $1 you’ve invested.
  • What is a 100% ROI?

    A 100% return on investment means that you’ve doubled your primary investment.