Kill the click: mobile is transforming cross-channel measurement and making traditional metrics obsolete

As we push forward into a multi-screen world, path to purchase has grown increasingly complex and fragmented, spanning diverse channels, platforms and contexts.

The consumer’s journey now plays as important a role as the point of conversation itself – especially given that 60% of Asia’s multi-device users now use at least three screens, with the number of users on four or more devices increasing from 22% in 2015 to 31% in 2016, according to a study by Appier.

All these varied touch-points have rendered traditional measurement metrics and marketing mix models obsolete. It is no wonder that marketers today are rallying for more accurate, transparent and effective measurement standards, research by the Mobile Marketing Association indicates that measurement and attribution tops the needs list for around 60% of marketers.

Cross-channel and cross-screen campaigns are no longer optional, and so should measurement standards that holistically account for the entire consumer journey. Against this backdrop, multi-touch attribution (MTA) is shaping up to be the holy grail of marketing measurement, addressing a whole host of challenges faced by marketers today.

Kill the click

The way we engage consumers has evolved, yet why hasn’t measurement kept up with the pace? Click-through rates (CTR), for instance, remains a popular metric among marketers, with 80% using CTR more regularly than any other metric, according to a study we conducted with Allstate. This is troubling, because CTR accounts for just 0.2% of sales, and has no direct correlation to conversions.

What about contribution of ads along the way? How well does mobile or other devices work in driving conversion? These questions go unanswered by current metrics; the rise of multiple touch-points has made it problematic to credit success to last touch. Caught up in this numbers game, marketers often lose sight of the importance of verification and other more effective metrics such as time spent on site.

To ignore all other touch-points before the last click is to disregard the different roles that each channel and device has played in the process. Last click has had its day, and our industry urgently needs to kill the click, and look into evaluating the entire buying journey by developing a more holistic picture of users’ varied media sources.

Out with the old, in with the new: from marketing mixed modelling to multi-touch attribution

For many marketers, marketing mixed modelling (MMM) is integral to their media planning process, helping them allocate ad spend across campaigns. But let’s face it: MMM was first conceived during the days when television dominated and audiences were less fragmented, and, in this age of digital, it no longer has much relevance to us.

With so much data at our fingertips, marketers need to be able to adjust marketing in real-time, or risk falling behind the curve. Yet, as a singular channel-focused tool, MMM lacks granularity, is retrospective and inaccurate in long-term forecasting, and does not deliver the ability to update performance measures in real-time. MMM only provides aggregate data, and falls short in delivering holistic insights into user-level behaviour and campaign reach across multiple channels and screens.

As traditional metrics and models fade into the background, MTA has recently emerged as a huge game changer for marketers. Drawing on user-level data analytics, MTA allocates proportional credit to a granular list of marketing touchpoints across all channels – both offline and online – to achieve a desired consumer outcome.

Based on our recent surveys, more than 150 of the top 500 marketers use MTA, and another 250 plan to implement it in the next 18 months, and for good reason.

Rather than pull from multiple models, MTA takes attribution to the next level by adopting a single point of reference with a unified user ID, which links different devices owned by the same user. For example, ad impression on mobile can be linked to conversion on PC, thereby taking into account the common scenario wherein a user receives brand messages on mobile but only follows through the sale on PC.

MTA allows marketers to evaluate across multiple touch-points and contexts, and see the ROI of their marketing efforts on any device, at any point of time. This spells great news for marketers aiming to justify mobile spend, who can now accurately measure mobile’s contribution. Bridging an important gap between online and offline channels, mobile has long been a bigger driver of consumer transactions than its gets credit for, and thankfully, this is changing with the emergence of unified IDs.

Developing a global standard for MTA

Despite these benefits, our research shows only two-thirds of marketers believe MTA “pays for itself”, and current MTA usage levels are low at 34%. Mistrust and lack of transparency are commonly cited as top reasons that hinder the adoption of MTA. A closer look at the various providers in the marketplace reveals why this might be so. With no standardised measurement framework, analytics methods differ across providers. All these disparate solutions have created chaos around the current state of marketing attribution, contributing to lack of trust among marketers.

Other pain points to resolve are walled gardens and gaps in data quality and accuracy, which make it difficult for marketers to identify meaningful metrics that inform their mobile strategy and allocation of media dollars. In order for self-attributing networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Google to be truly third-party, they have to start developing effective solutions that can address measurement, ad serving and fraud prevention.

Now, more than ever, should industry players come together to develop a global set of standardised guidelines to boost accuracy, transparency, and data verification of metrics that organisations rely on for critical business decisions, while building confidence and adoption of MTA. This is something we’re working on with our Marketing Attribution Think Tank, which aims to streamline measurement metrics and equip marketers with a strong foundation to apply MTA solutions.

Our industry has been pushing the frontiers of innovation and strategy, making strides in delivering better experiences to consumers, and the next step is to look inwards – to build an ecosystem where marketers voice what they need to adopt MTA methods, where providers proactively innovate to meet these needs, and where every device – from mobile, tablet and PC – gets the credit and accountability it deserves.

Rohit Dadwal is managing director of the MMA in Asia Pacific

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