Efficiency continues to be the kicker that separates the winners of digital marketing from the rest. With traffic, conversions and Google rankings all dependant on such granular details, being able to effectively attribute KPIs, understand areas of growth and identify potential inefficiencies can make or break a business. Digital attribution is the answer to this problem, but the process of applying an attribution model within your strategy isn’t necessarily quite as straightforward as the benefits it provides. We spoke to Russ Powell, Head of Marketing at Red Hot Penny, to find out more about the claims made by digital attribution, and how you can go about implementing an efficient model into your strategy.
What does digital attribution promise?
RP: The promise of digital attribution is a pretty big one – a complete understanding of which online marketing activities drive conversions, so marketers can better gauge performance and allocate budgets for maximum impact. It sounds great in theory, but as is the way with most wondrous promises it falls slightly short in real life. The reality behind the promise is more along the lines of digital attribution shedding light on the channels that should be credited for conversion.
What are some of the internal challenges associated with brands reaching optimum marketing attribution?
RP: That really depends on what you mean by “optimum”. To my mind, there’s no such thing as “optimum” marketing attribution; it’s more about doing the best you can with the attribution model you use and the technology you have access to.
Applying an attribution model will give you an idea of what’s happening, but it won’t ever give you the full story. Before you apply any attribution, your data is pure. But as soon as you start to apply those insights, you’re deciding that some data is more important or should be given more credit than others.
There’s also loads of data out there that brands aren’t even tracking, and probably can’t ever track, so they are making decisions based on incomplete information. Just because you get loads of information from attribution doesn’t mean you’re getting all of it. There’s a huge amount of technology out there to help but it can’t ever give you everything, no matter what platforms you use. Facebook, for example, doesn’t share its impression data with Google, so marketers will never be able to bridge that gap, no matter what tech they’ve got.
Away from the technical side of things, each individual consumer has a unique experience, and it’s a bit naïve to try and simplify that complex, personalised journey down to just clicks or impressions. You can be spoiled with information that makes you think you know everything, but attribution still requires a certain leap of faith and an appreciation that you’ll never know it all.
How can marketers best understand the shifting behaviour of their consumer and their needs/wants as they move through devices? What are the best metrics to look out for?
RP: Tracking across devices or screens is pretty near impossible except for the bigger players like Apple or Amazon, who have consumers logged in with a single profile on multiple devices. But the metrics that indicate consumer behaviour are still valid. Dwell time, page views, shares, and clicks will always have their place, it’s just becoming more difficult to tie them together into a single customer journey.
The best metric to track though is still customer value over time (CLV, LTV or whichever TLA you use). Having a clear view on that as an end point for attribution will be a real help.
What are your tips for optimising attribution and what are the specific benefits of these?
RP: The first tip is to acknowledge that every attribution model and tech solution has its benefits and flaws. If they didn’t we would have one model and one piece of tech that everyone would use, so as I said previously it’s more a case of doing the best you can with what you’re using rather than aiming for perfection.
The second tip is to keep on testing and refining what you’re doing. Attribution helps you assess the value of what you’re doing, but it doesn’t necessarily increase the value of what you’re doing. There’s still a need to continually tweak and reimagine what you’re doing to increase value as much as possible.
What are your thoughts on in-store beacons as champions/saboteurs of optimal attribution?
RP: I can see the theory behind them being solid as a means of tracking and attributing those offline/instore touches and purchases however, personally I think they’re gimmicky and intrusive. If they’re pinging notifications to customers whilst also tracking their movements around a store it might get a bit too creepy and customers could be put off a repeat visit. If stores are going to implement them they need to be upfront with customers so they know what to expect.
What are the small and big steps brand marketers can take to be more transparent and accurate with their attribution?
RP: One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that attribution should be part of a holistic marketing approach.
If you’re approaching things in a holistic way you’ll be working with other teams and departments, discussing and agreeing on goals and processes – so you’ll be keeping things transparent and accurate anyway. Hopefully.