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Navigating the complex world of attribution

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In a world where digital is set to continue on its rapid growth trajectory, the media mix is becoming more digitized, and traditional business models are shifting toward the development of e-commerce.

Part of that story is measurement. Several models have surfaced in the marketing industry in recent years, including cross-channel attribution and multitouch attribution, which refer mainly to digital touchpoints.

As with anything new, most clients are wary of being behind the curve, believing they should use one of these newer models, whether it’s relevant to their business or not.

If, like many CMOs, you are planning to implement a digital attribution model in 2017, here are some points to consider before embarking on that journey, to help you identify whether it’s right for your business.

Is your online spend big and diversified enough?

Online spend should be at least 20 to 30 percent of the media budget to justify the investment in such analysis, given the cost of an average project.

What’s more, if you use only one or two digital channels with low spend, digital-attribution analysis won’t offer anything more than "last click" will. The analysis particularly benefits clients who spend significant sums across a range of digital channels, such as display, generic search, affiliate, VOD, email and paid social. It’s particularly important for those who spend a lot on generic search PPC and display, as "last click" gives more credit to branded search and affiliates.

If more than 80 percent of your business comes from offline transactions, do you have a metric to link online behavior to offline conversions?

There should be at least a 50 percent correlation between your online KPIs and offline transactions, otherwise digital-attribution recommendations will have little impact on your business results.

Ultimately, digital attribution is not holistic, and online media shouldn’t be evaluated in isolation if offline channels are still dominant in your media budget. This is why, after more than 15 years operating in the marketing mix modelling space, Data2Decisions developed its Total Attribution approach, which provides a holistic evaluation of both offline and online media in the consumer journey and enables true optimisation across all media channels.

This approach connects and cross-references the top-down MMM analysis, which measures the impact of all media channels on business KPIs over a longer time period (and within the context of all other sales drivers), with the bottom-up digital attribution, which provides a granular view of the true contribution of each digital touchpoint. 

By taking this holistic approach, we can optimize the entire media mix, at speed, through PoleStar, our market-leading optimization software, and create a competitive advantage for our clients.

But it’s not just about the analysis.

Our consulting expertise translates into working in close partnership with clients to really understand their business and provide them with actionable recommendations, not just a set of slides or a dashboard with outputs.

In the words of one of our clients, Dr. Anirban Banerjee, director, insight and analytics at Monster: "Total Attribution is a unique way of bringing econometric modelling and digital attribution together. It has given us a powerful tool to deliver our business with the insight it requires to transform itself. I feel that we’re working with a partner, rather than an agency."

Ultimately, digital attribution is just a tool. If you have no plan to incorporate it into your broader measurement framework and use it to drive the overall business strategy, it won’t work. Instead of looking for digital attribution vendors, look for business partners or consultants who can help integrate a unified view of media performance in the organisation. 

—Irina Pessin is managing partner at data2decisions USA