SES SF: Searching for Attribution 'Beyond the Last Click'

  |  September 13, 2013   |  Comments

The greatest and most valuable asset of any company is that of the customer relationship, and marketers have the clearest path to that.

SAN FRANCISCO – When marketers are in a moment of candidness, they might repeat a phrase all too familiar to those who exert themselves in the crosshairs of marketing. "Fifty percent of my marketing works, I'm just not sure which 50 percent," the saying goes.

Why marketers continue to get attribution wrong and how they can accurately measure the impact of multi-channel campaigns is a growing concern and interest throughout the industry. "We often get asked why data, why attribution, why now?" Thad Kahlow, CEO of BusinessOnline, tells attendees here at SES SF.

"There's a lot of change in this world, and there's a lot of change happening very fast," he says. "Because of that, the enterprise value paradigm has changed."

The greatest and most valuable asset of any company is that of the customer relationship, and marketers have the clearest path to that, Kahlow adds. "The humble notion of building and sustaining customer relationships are key, and data and attribution are the way to get there."

Premal Shah, VP of strategy at Chango, describes it as a "post-click challenge" because only 10 percent of conversions are driven by clicks while the remaining 90 percent occur as view-through conversions.

"The challenge that you're going to face is that you need a data-driven approach," he says. The key and primary benefit of accurately measuring the impact of view-through conversions is to inform marketers when that defining event occurred.Nearly four of out of five marketers, or 78 percent, are already using a combination of click- and view-through attribution, according to a Chango survey of 51 brand marketers and agencies. But the analytics, market information, and data warehouse technologies required to build multi-channel attribution models are incredibly complex to pull together, Shah adds. Data-driven attribution that accounts for multi-channel campaigns typically requires a suite of partners that have access to and specialize in the data sets that most closely align with their business.

Shah and Kahlow encourage marketers to not overlook the opportunity due to those challenges, though. "How can you effectively go to market without knowing what's creating success?" he adds. An initial investment of a couple months and about $50,000 in the right hands is usually enough for companies to connect their online activity with those touch points that lead to sales, according to Kahlow.

"Last touch is a very myopic view of the world we live in," he says. Most consumers have an average of 10 touch points, but instead of giving each of those channels one-tenth attribution, marketers must challenge themselves to dig up and identify which point or points led to a conversion.

Evenly weighted models of attribution simply divide the number of channels that the user engaged with and place those percentages accordingly. The most evolved model of attribution uses regression, according to Kahlow; something he calls "validated attribution modeling."

"If you don't have your data house in order, you haven't connected that buying journey," Kahlow adds. Marketers who fixate too much on the lead level risk ignoring the average of at least 10 unknown visitors who are also involved in that purchasing decision, he continues. Once marketers can effectively close the sales and marketing loop, they'll better understand the path to success and have more confidence that those points of attribution are accurate.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.


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Matt Kapko

Matt Kapko has been writing about mobile since 2006, before it became cool. Based in Long Beach, CA, he has covered mobile entertainment, digital media, marketing, and advertising for several business media outlets. A former editor and reporter for RCR Wireless News, paidContent, and iMedia Connection, Matt is a regular freelance reporter for ClickZ. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattKapko or drop him a line at

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