Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff recounts the story of America’s first astronauts, exploring the mental and physical traits required of the “Mercury Seven” in the early years of the space program. The elite seven were selected by virtue of having the right characteristics to achieve the first manned orbital space flight. By comparison, marketers are challenged every day to assemble the most accurate, most desirable combination of personalized signals to reach customers in the race to own purchase paths.
If the key to effective marketing is mastering numerous personalized interactions, why is there an ongoing debate around first touch versus last touch attribution?
In general, attribution refers to the measurement of the value of each digital marketing point of contact that led to a desired outcome or transaction. Brand marketers have a vast number of opportunities to engage with consumers through digital media. The challenge is identifying which of these multiple touch points will be the most effective – resulting in purchases and brand affinity. Marketers have focused heavily on landing either the first touch or the last touch on a consumer’s journey to purchase, but with greater access to analytics, new touch points vie for attribution. Marketers should now consider the ruling strategy to be making all touch points the right touch.
The first touch remains a widely accepted approach to attribution. The first touch methodology typically assigns 100 percent credit to touch points that initiate purchase paths. Brands that have less direct dialogue with their customers focus on reaching out to users through product updates and commercial promotions. This method fails to account for other aspects of a customer’s journey. The first touch might simply get the consumer thinking about a particular type of product or brand – without resulting in a purchase.
Strong proponents of the last touch tend to be brands with high investment in services with direct relationships with consumers, including brands within telecom, financial services and hotels, as examples. The last touch methodology typically assigns 100 percent credit to the final touch point immediately preceding a sale. This approach provides insights into campaign success, but it isn’t the most effective. Though the last touch is easy to track, it doesn’t fully capture or capitalize on other significant touch points in an individual’s journey to purchase.
What marketers miss when they focus on the first or last touch is a truly holistic view of an individual’s habits and preferences. By taking into consideration a holistic view of the customer – and drawing upon multiple touch points throughout the path to purchase – marketers can zero in on making every touch point the right touch to have the most impact on the individual’s decision to purchase. This isn’t to say that the first or last touch are insignificant, but advertisers and brand marketers are selling themselves short if they adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. Based on knowledge of an individual’s habits and preferences, taking the “right touch” approach ensures optimal content and creative are delivered promptly – at the right time.
For example, in the travel industry marketers have a variety of different opportunities to reach customers. One instance is when travelers research and book travel. They may be on Facebook looking at friends’ vacation pictures for inspiration or on TripAdvisor reading reviews for potential locations. They may then use sites like Kayak or Hotels.com to research prices on their mobile devices. Finally they purchase their ticket or room directly on an airline or hotel website, respectively. Each one of these instances provides a number of crucial opportunities for marketers to reach and interact with the customers as they research and make choices about purchases.
These data sets, when available in real time, are extremely powerful in enabling analytics to pinpoint the opportunities and optimize advertising decisions. The right type of analytics will take into consideration multidimensional data, ranging from demographics, lifestyle, past purchase transactions, media responses and most recent sequence of media engagements. In addition, such analytics need to be embedded into the marketing platform and automated processes.
Marketers need to ensure they have the right tracking and attribution tools in place as well as the right metrics, to evaluate their efforts. Many of these platforms and tools are readily available on the market, however the critical task is to establish a methodology to properly attribute credit to all customer touch points.
The same way the Mercury Seven’s unique attributes positioned the team for success, with the right touch – enabled by data, analytics and technology – marketers can dynamically personalize their advertising messages, offers, and formats for their intended audience. Unlike the first or last touch, ensuring every touch point is right, is within reach for marketers. Ultimately this will help increase efficiency in targeting across every device through online display, search, social, mobile apps, as well as the personalization of website experiences and across every point of entry and pathway.