How Attribution Assigns Value to Your Marketing Channels

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Sabrina Chamberlain, SVP, Experience Analytics, RAPP LA, shares her INSIGHT into the value of attribution.

Attribution is a word that’s often thrown around in the marketing world, and it’s usually interpreted multiple ways.

Defining your marketing attribution strategy by identifying the goals, key metrics, and testing models will help you overcome the interpretative challenges that many teams face. Additionally, isolating other conversations — like a reduction in sales volume or revenue — could hone your strategy and allow you to achieve better results while spending more efficiently.

Because marketing attribution relies on assumptions, though, getting everyone on board can be one of the biggest obstacles.

Understand the Value of Attribution

Many teams would describe as chaotic the path to determining return on investment and assigning value to specific channels. Because marketing is a flexible set of owned, purchased, and earned streams to the consumer, a team’s relationship to those streams varies: The team has control over some and limited or proxy data about others, and still other streams are external to the impact.

After understanding that consumers don’t view channels in isolation and that two-thirds purchase through more than one channel, it’s important to address what metrics to include when evaluating attribution. Teams also have to assign value to those metrics, which can be accomplished through methods like modeling or assumptions. Ultimately, a buy-in of the applied definition is really important, especially when looking at attribution across all credit sources.

Even so, the impact of your campaigns may be greatly reduced by external, non-marketing factors, so attribution goes beyond “just media.” For example, if a huge snowstorm shuts down major Northeastern cities, your out-of-home media (billboards), print (direct mail, magazine), and radio may all dive in performance. People who can’t leave the house won’t get your messages. Digital, social, and television campaigns, however, see increased traffic because there’s nothing else to do but consume these channels.

In general, better understanding the scope of a multichannel ecosystem may help you measure attribution.

Take the Holistic Approach

Whereas incremental value assignment is an assumed proxy that gives proportional credit to marketing actions, a holistic support system provides tie-throughs to every action. With these tie-throughs, assumptions aren’t needed because, ideally, everything the consumer touches is tracked.

Attribution isn’t exactly to that point yet, but the holistic approach can still be used effectively by assessing the bubble of known direct ties and by using proxy value that correlates to the final product even though it lacks the tie-through.

3 Big Questions of Attribution

To approach attribution more effectively and to proactively determine the ROI of your efforts, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Do our attribution efforts impact our bottom line?

Marketers waste a lot of money on people who visit a business’s website for only a short time. Instead, you should evaluate users on the basis of what they do when they are on the site.

For example, you can assign a high value to interactions that require consumers to enter an email address in exchange for a subscription. Establishing an engagement metric like this lets you measure your various branding tactics against one another, which helps you understand how best to allocate your budget.

2. Do we believe in the assumptions we’re making?

If your attribution strategy is based on assumptions, make sure that you believe in them and that your team supports you.

The most important metric should be return on marketing spend. Because this return can’t be calculated without assumptions and campaigns perform differently throughout the marketing funnel, the results are often far from perfect. Therefore, knowing what you are measuring and interpreting those results effectively is essential.

3. What is the value of collecting attribution data?

You should use attribution to illustrate marketing value across channels.

Because attribution goes beyond marketing and involves a multidisciplinary team of tech and finance folks who should be involved from the beginning, it shouldn’t focus on only one part of the funnel. For example, relying on single-conversion occurrences can devalue the upstream traffic. Instead, you should measure the end result over time to provide a more accurate account of a consumer’s lifetime value.

Thinking about marketing attribution the right way will help you overcome the current challenges and see ROI on your future methods.

Sabrina Chamberlain, SVP, Experience Analytics, RAPP LA,
is a seasoned expert in data-driven strategy and marketing analytics. With various leadership roles in technical consulting, marketing, and business development, she provides a wide understanding and experience applying analytics-generated insights to achieve growth in startups and big-name brands. She is a graduate with dual MBA from University of Wisconsin and an MS – Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University.

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