Do's and Don'ts of Marketing Attribution for E-Commerce

Toon Hilhorst

Toon Hilhorst
26 Feb 2019

Do's and Don'ts of Marketing Attribution for E-Commerce

As marketers, we dream of a one-touch path to purchase. A customer sees an ad, clicks through, and a sale is made. This is the perfect scenario for marketing attribution because we can reliably offer the full credit for that conversion to a single interaction. We also live in the real world, however, which means that we understand that a customer journey as short and pointed as that imaginary one rarely becomes a reality. Consumers have low attention spans, are perennially multitasking and require multiple touches with a brand before making a buying decision.

Click here to read a blog post on the basics of marketing attribution for e-commerce.

DO View Brand Touchpoints as Interconnected

That’s what a multi-touch marketing attribution model seeks to guard against. It asks marketers to consider each step in a consumer’s path to purchase and weight its impact. If, for instance, a paid post on social media leads to a click, a website visit and then an abandonment, did it fail? Not if the rest of that journey included a weeks-later email list subscription, an opened email with a click through and a subsequent Google search to get back to the site and finally close the deal. So, that paid post was in fact not only a traffic source, but a conversion source–simply not on its own.

Your job, then, is to design a multi-touch attribution model that offers that granular level of insight into your consumers’ path to purchase. Advertisers need the full picture of incrementality along the winding road to conversion. That’s how you’ll be able to bank the knowledge that helps determine where your spend is working, where it needs to be adjusted, and which brand touches belong where in the journey to purchase.

DON’T Reinvent the Wheel

Many companies would be pleased to offer you expensive packages and complicated software that will help you fully immerse your company in a multi-touch attribution model. And your situation may well require you to say yes to those offers. But don’t start there. Chances are you can make some simple adjustments to the way you look at traffic sources and conversion rates within your existing framework. Spend a little time with your analytics and make changes to optimise the information you review in order to calculate attribution properly. Most analytics programs default to a last-touch model, so begin by adjusting that. Then start asking questions about the other assumptions you’ve decided to make in your current model for reviewing analytics.

DON’T Forget Common Sense

As you dive into the data that a multi-touch attribution model requires you to crunch, it’s easy to forget that–even with the mass quantity of information you have access to–it’s not the whole picture. So, while the data is important, marketers would be smart to keep pulling back throughout the process, to look at what pieces of the picture are poorly represented by the data. Using common sense in marketing attribution is essential.

Over at Marketing Land, they remind us that offline media may require attribution as well. Using the example of paid search, they remind us that it’s almost impossible to separate out of each of the influences that caused a consumer to arrive at your site through paid search. That’s because paid search is driven by organic search, which in turn is driven by consumer interest in a topic or product. Any number of offline influences -from magazines, to television to outside advertising- may have lead a consumer to search for a particular term. While you may not be able to fully capture the story of those offline influences, a successful multi-touch attribution model requires that you also not ignore their existence.

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