2015: The Year We Get Closer to Resolving the Great Attribution Agitation

Mobile is supremely important for marketers. If it isn’t, it should be. In 2014, we finally saw previously skeptical marketers stepping up to test, justify, and grow dedicated mobile budgets. This trend is a distinct acknowledgement of just how dominant smartphones and tablets have become in the consumer day-to-day experience. Think of how often you look at your phone. Perhaps you’re even reading this very article on a smartphone.

So as marketers now embrace mobile’s place in the average consumer’s day and thus its place in the new path to purchase — it’s never been more important to focus on multichannel impact and attribution. In fact, I predict 2015 will be “the year of attribution,” though I’ll also predict we’ll end the year, not with the solution, but rather with a necessarily better understanding of the possibilities.

No matter what you call it (mobile-first, cross-channel, omni-channel), the exponential number of factors involved in harnessing a strategic solution that both accounts for and optimizes all the moving parts and outcomes, demands a long-term, methodical approach. This is good news because it also means long-term opportunity, near-term low-hanging fruit, and an arena in which to pioneer the building blocks of tomorrow’s solutions. This is also an alert and call for action.

There is no one formula for success. However, I would recommend a strategy comprised of immediate, achievable goals, and long-term overarching initiatives. In other words, have the seamlessly integrated and attributable personalized omni-channel experience in your future view, but focus on concrete (even sub-channel specific) wins in the short-term. These various building blocks are the ones that will eventually combine to deliver the Holy Grail solution.

Getting to Attribution

Consider that the path to mobile voicemail began with an answering machine. We’ve already come so far. So, just like that, as we push the envelope with regard to attribution, new technologies will continue to accrete and combine. Attribution is currently just out of reach on the top shelf, but with new technologies serving as building blocks, the best-in-class will eventually be able to reach it. We’re getting there.

Here are some developments that we should expect to see in 2015:

  1. Measuring Foot Traffic: The industry as a whole will finally understand we can monitor and measure foot traffic driven by mobile impressions. But more importantly, it will gain a better understanding of when and why this can be a meaningful metric, while simultaneously taking technology and privacy limitations into consideration.
  2. New, Better Metrics: We finally will stop using click-through rate (CTR) as a default metric and endeavoring to optimize it. We will fully turn our attention and our systems to the more meaningful, secondary actions, around which we can tune our campaigns.
  3. Mobile as a Driver: Marketers will more fully realize the capacity for mobile to drive and optimize those secondary actions and downstream behaviors, in general (store locator utility, inquiries, and the like). We will establish standard metrics for measuring a core set of these secondary actions.
  4. Power Lifting: At the same time, we will begin to define common methods for measuring/evaluating another key metric driven by strong mobile marketing: Visitation and Purchase Lift. A visit to a site or brick-and-mortar location enables a purchase, and purchase is the bottom line attribution goal. Definitive ways to measure mobile attributable lift will begin to take shape.
  5. Privacy Policy: Because mobile generates more individual and behavior data then any previous channel, lawmakers and regulators will continue to address consumer privacy concerns. Concurrently, technology will evolve to aid both the consumer and marketer. Meanwhile, savvy marketers should focus on channel specific opt-ins – especially with regard to mobile.

We love to dub “the year of” whatever the platform du jour may be. As an industry, we champ at the bit to do so, as proof of maturation or justification of our investments. Yet, as mobile ad-tech continues to mature, and adoption steadily rises — we need not fret the year-of designation. We’re getting over it, getting it on the possibilities, and fully appreciating the long-term opportunity that is mobile-led, fully attributed ad marketing.

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