The Path to Smarter Marketing Attribution

From last-click to customer journey attribution, across devices and channels

A soccer game is not about that one last goal before the final whistle, a marriage does not happen because of that one last date before the wedding, and you didn’t land your dream job as a digital marketing hero just because of that one previous job. What’s true in many areas of life holds true in online marketing, too: a sale does not happen just because of the last click before conversion. Nevertheless, last-click attribution is still how most online marketers credit their online marketing spend.

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The greatest strength of last-click attribution is also its greatest weakness: simplicity. It’s easy to understand and implement, yet inaccurate and limited. To meet the requirements of today’s multi-touchpoint customer journey, marketers need to expand their attribution models to include all channels that contribute to a purchase or transaction. In 2014, however, only 24 percent of U.S. online marketers had implemented such multi-touch-point attribution models (eMarketer).

This number has jumped to 40 percent in 2015, so there’s hope. Marketers, however, don’t succeed in attribution just by adding more touchpoints to their model. There are many business-specific challenges and no one-size-fits-all solution—click weight, click quality and view-through effects are all factors that need to be considered in order to establish an attribution model that meets the needs of a advertiser’s business.

To make it even more complex, today’s most advanced online marketers no longer aim to allocate their marketing budgets only based on short-term transactions like clicks or views. Instead, they take into account the value of a person over his or her entire lifetime as a customer. This is the concept of customer lifetime value (CLV). Marketers who use CLV insights are able to identify their most important customers and reactivate them in order to make them even more valuable over time.

And let’s not forget about the challenges posed by multi-device and multi-channel customer journeys. Customer ID tracking, fingerprinting, correlation analyses, research-online-purchase-offline (ROPO) effects, click-and-collect, email receipts—these are the bridges between devices and channels that advanced online marketers use to connect their users’ customer journeys.

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There are many challenges in establishing an efficient and effective attribution model. Weighing clicks, factoring in views, optimizing for CLV, adjusting pricing models, multi-device and multi-channel attribution—working with global e-commerce clients, we get insights into the problems and benefits of different attribution models every day.

The good news: tackling these challenges is extremely rewarding. Once your attribution model is well-adjusted to your business and sales cycle, it will help you paint a more detailed picture of your customers and their journey to conversion, allowing you to fine-tune your investments for maximum impact at the right cost.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 13.27.25Learn more about the different steps in refining attribution models in The Digital Marketer’s Attribution Handbook.