The holistic or omni-channel conversation invites a larger debate into the mix, and no potential topic is more politically charged than that of attribution. This is not just a debate between the digital marketing teams, but instead often creates tension across all disciplines within an organization as seismic shifts about how the company understands and interacts with their customer base, how they report on sales, and how they finance different initiatives are discussed, dissected, and deliberated.
When you have different channels such as Email, Search, Social, and Display all vying for full credit of a sale and any associated revenue, you create a Reservoir Dogs style standoff where each medium’s value and return is directly correlated to the acknowledgement of the role that channel played in bringing revenue to the company.
And herein lies the issue as most budgetary decisions of how much spend to allocate to a certain channel are based purely upon its perceived return on investment and yield.
This makes the politics of attribution a very hairy beast as no channel wants their value diminished, nor do they want their budgets cut or diluted.
Within this tense jenga tower it is an unfortunate truth that a large swath of advertisers do not have any attribution model in place, or most at best are still on a single-point model like Last-Touch attribution, meaning the last interaction the customer engages with prior to converting is given 100% of the credit, regardless of how many other marketing avenues were in play and led the customer down the path towards purchasing that pair of awesome new jeans.
As he is so often quoted, John Wanamaker famously said, “Half of my advertising is wasted. Problem is I don’t know which half“. So too with Attribution. The question is not “Do I have an attribution problem?” But rather “How big of an attribution problem do I have?”
If you are using Last-Touch attribution, then it is a hefty problem indeed. Last-Touch is the equivalent of a shopkeeper looking at their front door, seeing all the customers coming in to purchase goods, and thinking that if she had two more front doors, she would have three times as many sales.
To turn the tide of this myopia, one of the most imperative things first and foremost, is to have in place a single source of truth in the form of some platform, tag manager, or reporting technology that can present a clear snapshot of how a customer is interacting with your brand across all channels and devices. Once implemented, you need to get buy-in across your organization to leverage this data repository as your guiding star, your marketing true north. So many times I have seen different teams all reporting on the same conversion events but each using a different system or data report, resulting in inflated sales metrics and optimization based on inaccurate data.
When Facebook first launched its advertising platform lots of marketers struggled to find the value in Social advertising and many claimed that “it just didn’t work” and they weren’t seeing the ROI required to justify the investment. In a study we conducted at Skai™, we compared varying attribution models for a set of advertisers and saw that Last-Touch was undervaluing the impact of paid Facebook advertisement by anywhere from 12%-30%.
Without this multi-touch insight, these marketers would have continued to be unsuccessful advertising on Facebook, and would have pulled the budget, ultimately damaging their brand and limiting its reach.
I can’t tell you what the silver bullet of attribution modeling is for your company, but I highly suggest a multi-touch model that takes into account more than a single customer interaction.
Some marketers prefer linear models that divide the conversion and revenue evenly across all touch points; others prefer exponential decay models where the lower funnel touches get the lion’s share of credit, but upper funnel interactions still receive some acknowledgment for their role; still others have found great success in machine learning, dynamic attribution models. Avinash Kaushik (Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist) has a well-rounded article on the topic.
Regardless of what you choose, I can tell you that in order to evolve your marketing you should be moving beyond Last Touch and testing some holistic cross-channel, multi-touch attribution model now. Leave Last-Touch in the dust and re-evaluate your attribution approach to gain clarity into the true value of your advertising labors. You will also have the power to test other key marketing channels such as Instagram or Pinterest, which have both announced plans for transactional call-to-action buttons (read: ‘Buy Now’ buttons) and are vital in fostering new avenues of brand affinity between you and your customer.
At the end of the day, a holistic cross-channel attribution approach allows you to see the real impact that your advertising efforts have on your brand and your customers.
In the time it took you to read this very lengthy series (my apologies) you could have already implemented a holistic marketing strategy centered around cross-media, multi-touch attribution, targeted cross-device audience segmentation, and mobile in-app advertising allowing you to have a focused and relevant conversation with your high-value consumers.
But, I want to leave you with two final A-words to rounded out this series: Action and Agility.
Jump in there and start putting theory into action. Just do it! And remain agile during the process. Test, Adapt, Iterate, and Test again.
More is lost by indecision than wrong decision. Indecision is the thief of opportunity. It will steal you blind (and waste your marketing budget).