3 Reasons to Go Beyond Last-Click Attribution

  |  April 15, 2013   |  Comments

With analysis, you can gain a clearer understanding of consumer behavior to help you make better decisions today.

Many marketers continue an unhealthy obsession with only crediting the last click as the reason for their marketing success. This is called last-click attribution, and it's about as shortsighted as crediting a sign outside a store as the sole reason someone came inside and made a purchase. Yes, the sign does matter. It may have actually been the reason for the customer to enter the store and buy a product. But what if you could see all the other interactions with your brand that a customer had prior to seeing the last interaction and making a purchase? You can. And smart marketers and brands already do this using modern analytics platforms.


With that said, no matter what tools you are using, going beyond the last click and crediting all your channels is critical if you hope to fully value your marketing efforts. Here are three important reasons you need to do this:

  1. The modern path to purchase is across devices, platforms, and sites. At Google Analytics, we're finding that, on average, customers interact with a brand 4.3 times over a two-day period before they finally make a purchase. In addition, the average U.S. shopper consults a total of 10.4 new and traditional media sources prior to purchasing. This makes sense, as consumers are going through an increasingly complex digital journey to find information, build relationships, and connect with brands. They ask their social networks. They share a product with friends on their mobile devices while out and about. They research the web from their laptops at home. They consult reviews, media, and apps. But if you're only looking at the final interaction that happens before a purchase, you might miss some of the most important engagement events with your brand that led to a purchase. Last-click attribution is looking at your marketing with one eye closed, whereas looking at the entire customer journey is seeing it clearly.
  2. Last click ignores the supporting players. Crediting just the last click prior to conversion greatly undervalues your digital marketing program. But how, exactly? The analogy of a basketball game works well: if you are a good coach, you realize it isn't just the player who scores the basket who should be credited. Rather, it also involves the hard work of the rest of the team that sets your shooter up for success. Like a good basketball coach, however, not all players should be credited equally. Appropriate marketing attribution will give different levels of credit to different channels and interactions based on their relative impact on the final conversion. For example, the non-branded term a visitor used to initially discover your product could be valued higher than a later, branded search that same user conducted that ended in a sale.
  3. Soon, last click will mean your marketing comes in last place. As data-savvy marketing becomes the norm, the number of brands and marketers who look purely at last click will shrink. With more and more marketers doing a better job valuing their efforts, the brands who do the best job activating digital will be those able to look across their marketing mix and strategically dial up the efforts that are working. Those marketers still living in a last-click world will have a difficult time winning against competitors able to understand specifically what's working and what's not (and why).

The world of digital marketing is growing more complex, but the good news is modern tools are keeping pace, making it possible to easily measure results and take action. It takes a shift in mindset to value new channels such as social and mobile as highly as they should be. But with analysis, you can gain a clearer understanding of consumer behavior to help you make better decisions today.

This column was originally published on Feb. 4, 2013.

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Adam Singer

Adam Singer is Analytics Advocate at Google, a marketing, media and PR industry speaker, startup adviser and blogger. He previously was digital director for a 300+ person global consulting team and over the course of his career has provided online marketing strategy for B2B & B2C brands in a variety of industries including marketing technology, healthcare, manufacturing, advertising/subscription-based web startups, and much in between. Singer and his campaigns have been cited by top media outlets such as TechCrunch, AdWeek, NY Times and more for creative use of digital marketing and PR. Singer blogs at The Future Buzz - an award-winning blog with more than 25K subscribers and frequently-referenced source of what's new in digital marketing.

Connect with Adam on Google+ or Twitter.


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