Clearing the fence: overcoming the barriers to successful attribution

Marketers have recently realized attribution solutions are not easy to implement, and some have begun to question whether accurate attribution can ever truly be obtained.

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Feb 01, 2018
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‘In 2017, organizations will realize that attribution is not the panacea to their measurement problems’. Martech Advisors

Attribution isn’t as easy as it looks. But does that mean that marketers are hankering after something that doesn’t exist? Successful, accurate attribution may be difficult, but it isn’t impossible, and the benefits are enormous.

Most marketers fail to overcome common barriers to successful attribution simply because they don’t know what those barriers are. Clear them, and you’re on your way to marketing success through attribution.

In the first of this series, we looked at the challenges of attribution. Now, we outline the barriers to successful attribution and show how they can be overcome.

1. Beware data silos

Customers don’t live in silos, and nor should your data. Examining your data is a key first step in successfully implementing an attribution model. Customers don’t distinguish between channels, and their shopping paths will zig-zag.

A study by AdRoll & Econsultancy (2016) found that a third of companies blame disparate data sources for a lack of progress with attribution. The solution? Break down your data silos and unify your data into a consistent, holistic format. Now, your customer journeys can be tracked properly.

2. Capture offline properly

Offline plays a significant role in the marketing mix and will keep on doing so. So you need an attribution model that sees it all.

Too many models are heavily skewed towards digital channels. That means they give credit for the vast majority of conversions to online events (clicks, signups, etc.) and the most recent marketing events (promotions, email campaigns, etc.). Even when models take account of offline, they tend to monitor only offline to offline changes. 

It’s vital to find a model that integrates online to offline conversions, and vice versa. Then, you’ll have truly accurate attribution.

3. Brand affinity isn’t conversion

If you assign full credit for conversions to specific channels, aren’t you just taking account of customers who are inclined to convert because of their strong affinity for a brand?

Brand affinity matters, but it isn’t the same as conversion. If you think it is, you risk exaggerating the contribution of certain channels and pushing your budget allocation to the wrong place. This isn’t a failure of attribution. It just means that you’ve excluded brand lift from your dataset. Add it in, and you are one step closer to sophisticated attribution that can give you the results you need.

4. Turns out, silos aren’t just for data…

Teams who work in silos can cause just as many problems as data that isn’t holistic.

AdRoll’s survey also found that 40% of the companies they talked to feel overwhelmed by the complexity of data. Disparate departments make it even harder for information to get where it needs to go.

Your data team might not realise that your marketing team needs information delivered in an easily digestible format. And if goals and KPIs don’t align across the organization as a whole, it gets difficult to measure success. Attribution modelling can quickly run into the sand when no one can agree on what ‘good’ looks like.

Investing the time and effort to bring your teams together and the benefits will flow. Now, you can have a full picture of your data and marshal your resources so that attribution brings success for everyone. Want to know more? Find out how to create a digital mindset throughout your organization.

5. Right staff = right attribution

In a 2017 survey by Marchtech, 76% of respondents agreed that they struggle to find the right staff to take advantage of marketing attribution. 

Building internal skillsets and training individuals so that employees feel empowered to handle data is a step in the right direction.

You can also look to outsource: that way, you can bolster your attribution efforts with minimal disruption.

6. The tools for the job

Even if you have the right team and the right resources in place, an outdated infrastructure can hold you back.

Attribution needs specific tools and technologies to be successful. You wouldn’t turn up to a soccer match with a hockey ball. Similarly, you need the right kit for data collection, integration, visualisation, interpreting and forecasting. 

7. Change your clothes when you need to

You want a one-size-fits-all attribution strategy, but every business has its own mix and balance of channels. When things move on, you need to change your attribution model. 

The route to successful attribution is about leaving room for experimentation and small changes. Take it step by step. If you can react sensitively to every touchpoint, you’re on your way to taking the journey with your customers. We all change: the key to achieving your KPIs is reacting flexibly and pragmatically. Clear the fence, change your clothes and find your way to successful attribution for your business.

This is Part 2 in a series of three articles about how data-driven attribution can work for your marketing campaigns.

Part 1: The attribution illusion: which channel gives the highest ROI?

Part 2: Clearing the fence: overcoming the barriers to successful attribution

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