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The state of marketing attribution

By Louella Hughes

With attribution strategies growing in importance and complexity, Gavin Flood of AdRoll shares some of the top-level findings from their recent report prepared in conjunction with eConsultancy.

Attribution has often been described as trying to find a single source of truth when it comes to the relative impact of every channel on the customer path to conversion. With that truth comes power in the form of better insights on where and when to invest marketing budget and better project return on investment.

The proliferation of the marketing stack, advertising channels and user devices has made the search for that truth ever more challenging, as have the various schools of thought around the strategy of attribution.

It’s against that backdrop that much of the current research and debate is focused on. In this article we explore those themes through some of the key findings from a recent report on the The State of Marketing Attribution carried out by e-Consultancy in conjunction with AdRoll.

80% of organisations are using attribution Despite the complex nature of the subject matter, four out of five organisations are using attribution. This is borne from marketers wanting to better track activity, as well as an increasing expectation amongst consumers to be treated as individuals and for brands to remember them. This last point is increasingly a hygiene factor for engaging with brand campaigns.

The multi-channel challenge While 80% of organisations are using attribution, only 30% are doing so across the majority of their campaigns. A key reason for this is the mobile-centric nature of consumer activity and the challenges around tracking in this channel. The ability to integrate offline and online activities is also a key contributor to this statistic. Of the offline touchpoints included in attribution models, direct mail, print and TV are the ones most widely tracked and attributed.

What is everyone else doing with attribution? Rules-based and algorithmic are the dominant approaches among organisations for deploying their attribution strategy. Rules-based is dependent on a set of assumptions, so is prone to bias, while algorithmic is dependent on how rich and solid your data is. This raises the question of whether a perfect attribution model can ever be achieved and if the goal should be limiting bias and maximising the quality of your data.

The growing of the marketing technology stack The continued fragmentation of the digital landscape driven by the explosion of  networks has in turn added significantly to the marketing technology stack in recent times. The effect of this is more data sources and the challenge within it is establishing that single source of truth.

Despite that, 73% of marketers believe their marketing technology stack delivers effective attribution. This is very surprising given the number of companies lagging behind when it comes to using more complex attribution models. It might be that organisations are hitting an attribution wall given the huge time and money investment required to build and refine capabilities in this area.

Training is the key Proving the value of marketing attribution requires clean data as well as accurate modelling and skilled analysts – a stumbling block for 57% of companies who say that they don’t action the insights they get from attribution.

A key reason for this is a lack of skill and knowledge within the marketing team around attribution, which in turn explains why many organisations rely on external partners and vendors for end to end execution on marketing attribution. However this does not remove the need for strong in-house knowledge in order to be able to interpret and action the findings.

Where to from here? Attribution will continue to grow both in terms of its importance and complexity. So continued investment is required, but in the right areas. Empowering staff with skills and knowledge to manage the challenge of attribution will have a cascade effect on the business. It will ensure the right model, vendor and processes are in place to harness the right learnings, while setting the company up to do the single most important thing when it comes to attribution – acting on the findings.

Ultimately, attribution is a journey and not a destination. You just need to make sure you’re on the right road.

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