Anyone who has worked in marketing, advertising, or media is familiar with the concept of attribution. It’s the notion that a certain message promoted an action – hopefully one that converted into a sale.
I was always taught that the reason brands should use multiple media is that each medium had a role to play in that conversion process. TV generated awareness, print was good for research and product information, radio was the great reminder medium. Digital? What was that? Aside from the use of a coupon or an offer code or tracking via direct mail, the attribution chain was pretty much determined by special surveys and the thrusting of a licked finger into the air to see which way the CMO‘s wind was blowing.
It’s obviously very different today. Many sales are made via online stores and are, therefore highly trackable. Attribution, however, is still a bit of a mystery although less so. Nevertheless, it’s a critical data point and as a recent Forrester study stated:
Organizations leverage many channels to reach and grow customers. The average marketer we surveyed is using 13 channels to drive his or her marketing and media objectives. This reflects marketers’ increasingly omnichannel approach to win, serve and retain their customer base. Sixty percent of these channels are included in marketers’ attribution measurements.
Obviously, missing almost half of your touchpoints in any kind of measurement isn’t great but it’s a start. So what is this exactly and why is it important to your business? Think about your own purchasing activities. You decide to buy a widget. You might do a search which leads you to a website. Organic search is touchpoint one. You do your research and leave. Maybe the site sets a cookie and remarkets to you (were you looking for information about widgets?) and you go back. Remarketing is touchpoint two. Maybe a week goes by and you see an article on widgets that brings you to the site again. Content and a referral is touchpoint three. Now you’re ready to buy and you search for “best widget prices”. You click on an ad and end up there again. Paid search is touchpoint four. You buy.
The question is which source gets credit for the sale. That’s the secret sauce of attribution. The first click? The last click? How do you weight the journey to conversion? Broaden it from just digital to in store and other media. How are they to be accounted for (maybe the missing 40%)? The majority of marketers surveyed (76%) have moved beyond single-touch attribution, but only 11% use advanced algorithmic attribution and as the study muses marketers may be hesitant to adopt advanced attribution approaches because they find them difficult to understand and communicate to their organizations. I’d add there may be a hesitancy due to fear of contradicting the entrenched thinking about the need to support various channels and marketing activities.
This will continue to be a big issue – giving credit where credit is due. How are you thinking abut this? What are you doing about it?