A closer look at attribution and how much marketing is really worth

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If a consumer buys an item on your site after clicking on a display ad, it’s fairly straightforward to credit that sale entirely to that one ad.

Push Group consider the various benefits to attribution and suggest marketers look at more channels.

But what if the route to purchase was somewhat more complicated? Perhaps they clicked on the company’s display, then a social ad a week later, before downloaded the company app, visiting the website from an organic search listing and converting in a store using a coupon from said app. How are you meant to know which event, or touchpoint, was the key that sealed the deal?

Welcome to the world of marketing attribution.

What is attribution?

Attribution is the science of not only determining what steps were taken prior to conversion but identifying which marketing channel was most impactful on the customer — and when. Being able to accurately track conversions is paramount to effectively following the success of a campaign.

According to Simon Poulton, senior director of digital intelligence at digital marketing agency Wpromote, "Given the increasing fragmentation of platforms and the types of media that marketers have available to them, attribution has never been more important from a marketing measurement perspective. Unfortunately, the nature of attribution is one where the goalposts are constantly being moved."

Understanding what route a consumer took prior to a sale can be just as important as the sale itself. The science of attribution has a significant role to play in helping organisations maximise their business outcomes, which makes it all the more astounding that many companies still do not prioritise it. Attribution offers invaluable insight into your marketing strategies and enables better decision making and allocation of spend. Without solid, high-quality marketing attribution, your ad budgets can be drained inexorably and your revenues lost in the ether.

How is attribution tracked?

Agencies need to ensure that proper measurement technologies are in place if they are to effectively track the attribution capabilities of a campaign. This is where attribution models come into play.

Attribution models assign credit to touchpoints in the consumer journey. These models vary in the way they measure attribution, so it’s a great idea to experiment with a variety of them and see what works best for the tracking of your marketing campaigns.

First-click attribution

This model focuses exclusively on the initial action that the customer took on their journey and ignores and subsequent engagements they may have had prior to converting.

Last-click attribution

In contrast with first-click attribution models, last-click attribution hones in on the last page or organisation the customer clicked on before conversion. However, this does not account for any other engagements in the company’s marketing efforts that may have led to the conversion.

Equal attribution

This multi-touchpoint model accounts for the fact that different aspects of the consumer’s journey carry greater weight than others in the contribution they made to conversion. can be assigned responsibility for conversion.

Time-decay attribution

This model lends credit more heavily to those touchpoints that occurred closer to the time of conversion than those further back in time.

U-shaped attribution

The unique methodology behind this model assigns the most credit to the first and final engagements. The rest is assigned equally to any of the touchpoints that occurred sometime in the middle. This is the model followed by Google Analytics: 40% credit is assigned to the first engagement and the last, with the remaining 20% distributed equally across the middle interactions.

Fractional attribution

This model assigns credit for the conversion to a variety of sources. By determining duplicate attributions, this model removes those touchpoints that have not actually contributed and also allows you to assign greater weight to those steps taken that played a more important role.

Algorithmic/data-driven attribution

Rather than requiring a predetermined set of rules for assigning credits, this model utilises machine learning to analyse every touchpoint and create an attribution model based on the resultant data.

Why is attribution so crucial?

Given the impact that attribution can have on a campaign’s success, it’s of little surprise that AdRoll’s 2017 State of Performance Marketing Report found that 70% of professionals across both Europe and North America struggle to act on marketing insights in order to generate improvements. This would strongly indicate that attribution is not being used effectively by a huge proportion of businesses, despite it being a hot opportunity consistently identified by marketing teams.

What’s more, the AdRoll report identified two key points where marketers felt attribution was making a massive impact on their businesses.

  • 70% stated that using attribution models allowed them to work more efficiently with budgets, achieving overall greater allocation across channels.
  • 64% asserted that attribution provided indispensable insight into how their marketing channels were complementing one another (or how they weren’t).

Without a solid attribution strategy, you’ll never generate good ROI on your marketing spend. Why is this?

  • Attribution allows both marketers and businesses to get to grips with the impact their campaigns are having.
  • A solid attribution strategy lets companies see exactly how and where their marketing channels have contributed to bringing in customers.
  • Studying attribution provides a way of exerting some degree of control within the consumer journey, then shape it in accordance with the needs of the business and the outcomes desired.
  • Implementing a genuinely impactful marketing attribution strategy means paving the way for greater efficiency by driving resources towards those channels that are delivering the most.
  • Studying attribution provides a way of exerting some degree of control within the consumer journey, then shape it in accordance with the needs of the business and the outcomes desired.
  • Attribution extends far beyond digital advertising. It can also incorporate offline marketing efforts, traditional advertising and non-marketing-related variables, the latter being potentially as broad as how the weather, season and time of day affect the strength of a marketing plan or your customer acquisition.
  • Attribution modelling is an integral component of adaptive marketing, in which you utilise every tool available to your organisation to optimise and tailor a marketing approach based on the data you acquire — all in real time.
  • You’re not constricted to a single dataset with marketing attribution. You can use it to establish a baseline to predict future purchases, then measure the direct impact of altering a variable. Those changes that produce positive effects can then be incorporated into the evolving model.

Marketing attribution has a tangible role to play in optimising marketing spend and attaining a more in-depth understanding of how organisations can best use those channels available to them. What’s more, it’s becoming ever more significant.

Attribution is now more crucial than ever

Businesses are having to change tack and align their outlook more with that of their marketing teams. As mobile search becomes ever more important and ubiquitous, consumer journeys can be observed to be increasingly disconnected and fragmented. This has only become truer since Google rolled out mobile-first indexing on July 1 this year.

As marketers invest in more channels, attaining a unified perspective on customers’ journeys is becoming tougher. Push can help. We are leaders in digital marketing, with oodles of experience in articulating and formulating coherent and impactful marketing attribution strategy for clients across a myriad of industries. Get in touch with one of our friendly team today and see how our in-house experts can help you track customer journeys, optimise spending and boost conversions!

Ricky Solanki, joint CEO at Push Group.

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