What is marketing attribution and why is this important for you

Toon Hilhorst

Toon Hilhorst
25 Feb 2019

What is marketing attribution and why is this important for you

Even though marketing attribution isn’t the newest thing, it’s still relatively unknown in the marketing landscape. And it may sound daunting as well. No worries, we’re here to get you up to date on this revenue increasing way of looking at your media spend.

For e-commerce businesses getting to grips about how to use digital attribution can be daunting, but it does not have to be. It all starts with knowing the customer journey and keeping track of all the digital interactions customers took to buy something ultimately. For large multi/omnichannel retailers the danger lies in marketing budgets consistently spent on promoting the incorrect channels, if the attribution model isn’t aligned with the core company objectives. But the thing is, most of the models aren’t built to an exact science, they have pre-set configurations. Whereas other models are algorithmic and data-driven, based on historical and real-time data that provide actionable insights straightaway. The goal is to find out what works for businesses and how to get started on that journey.

Click here to read more about marketing attribution

So, what is marketing attribution?

It’s the process that assigns a value or credit to determine what set of customer actions across digital channels (social, email, organic/paid search, etc.) contributed to a conversion. This conversion is typically a sale but could also mean an email sign up, a paid ad click, referrals or a click through.

According to Salesforce customers make 6 - 8 touchpoints before they become a viable lead which can include many traffic sources like Facebook ads or a Google search.

In the current landscape, marketers and advertisers divide their media budgets over several channels. This is what we call multichannel marketing. It makes you, as a marketer, face a lot of choices and decisions to make. In the meantime, you’re also interested in seeing the effect of your media spend. So, for the effectiveness of your Google Ads, you look at Google Ads, and for the effectiveness of your Facebook ads, you look at Facebook, etcetera.

Looking at each channel individually isn’t giving you any real insights. It’s probably even confusing. Thereby, each of these traffic channels is purely showing its own data. When looking at each channel individually, you’re missing the bigger picture.

To see the bigger picture and see the way your channels relate to each other, you’ve got to start using marketing attribution. It will even make you see which of your channels is making the customer buy.

“In marketing, attribution is the identification of a set of user actions (“events” or “touchpoints”) that contribute in some manner to a desired outcome, and then the assignment of a value to each of these events.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Marketing attribution gives you, as a marketer, the insights to the customer journeys of your buyers. It shows you how the touchpoints in your customer journey relate to each other and which of your channels are the most incremental.

Why is marketing attribution important?

Now that you’ve got a clear view of what marketing attribution is, you’re probably already seeing the added value it provides. Namely, with marketing attribution, you’ll be able to identify the touchpoints of converting customers. This gives you, as a marketer, the ability to optimize your media spend in a way that will increase your revenue.

So, with the implementation of marketing attribution, the man who ones said:

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half” (John Wanamaker (1838 - 1922),

… is now wrong.

How to get started with marketing attribution

Below will list actionable steps to take for the road to attribution. For eComm businesses with fewer shopper journeys (1-2) or a few sales a month it’s not necessary to have a complicated model. It’s best to start with the default ones like first or last touch.

Step 1: Customer Mapping

Without mapping out all the customer experiences that can happen an attribution model won’t work effectively. If the process is overwhelming, start by splitting the customer experiences into these common stages: before purchase, during purchase, and after purchase.

Want to discover the ins and outs of the customer experience? Read The Consumer Decision Journey

Step 2: Data

To get started with attribution modelling, it’s vital to be work with data. Reliable and accurate data. Collect as much data as you can, so you can connect this to an attribution tool. Better data, means better insights and will result in better decisions.

Make sure to have really good data for your attribution. To aim is to analyze data at every possible level. For example, you want to be able to compare paid search vs affiliate, but also compare keyword X vs. keyword Y.

Step 3: Align your attribution strategy with Core Business Objectives

It’s easy only to consider the marketing team’s goals for selecting an attribution model while forgetting the overall business objectives. Maybe the target for the business is increasing sales quarterly fast because they experienced low sells and wanted to utilize the last touch model to measure this. Whereas marketing has the goal to improve customer service throughout the journey, which will need to consider how each point contributes.

However, if you’re at the stage of improving the customer experience, you need to understand how each touchpoint contributes to showing progress.

Step 4: Test and change what doesn’t work

No law exists to keep you confined within the default attribution models if they aren’t producing essential insights. Be willing to test and change to find out what works. Custom models exist that focus on unique data businesses has to offer a much more realistic picture of attribution.

But the main focus should not always be about attribution. Incrementality is essential too as it “…describes how much lift any form of advertising or marketing provides to whatever metric you’re measuring” according to chiefmarketer.

Nanigans mention it can aid in allocating and optimising marketing budgets and retargeting ad expenditure.

The next step for you, as a marketer

I hope that this read has made you enthusiastic about marketing attribution. Therefore, I’d like to give you some advice on your next steps.

First of all, be critical. You probably are, considering 78% of marketers name click fraud as their top concern (Adweek, 2016). But still, remember to be critical in your research on marketing attribution. You don’t want insights in the form of long data sheets, different tables and complicated graphs. You need clear insights, information that shows you how to make improvements. Transparent and actionable. In order for you to make changes and generate more revenue.

Checking our blog post on the Do’s and Don’ts of marketing attribution will provide you with more insights as well.

And keep that critical mindset when you’re comparing different attribution tools. Be aware that a lot of attribution tools make assumptions about the data that they’re missing. And that’s exactly not what you should be looking for. Remember, you are looking for actionable insights that shows you what to do, to improve revenue.

Be a step ahead and start implementing marketing attribution.

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