Digital Marketing Attribution: Tapping the Data Disruption

You’ve likely heard something about “Big Data,” and may be wondering what this is and if it has any impact on marketers and your world. There are lots of ways people use (and misuse) the term, but for purposes of this column, let’s say that big data is marketing data that is multi-structured (not linear or easily aligned to a structured database format) and sourced from multiple customer interactions. This might include clickstream (website visits), behavioral insights, email and SMS response data, social posts and tweets, and search keyword activity.

In essence, big data disrupts marketing. It upsets the normal “container” of marketing data, because the unstructured and multi-structured formats don’t match the kinds of one-to-one relationship of data element with database field (the way that structured data works). It upsets the CRM paradigm because it’s fluid, hard to sort and prioritize, and not always attributable to a specific person. It also disrupts the infrastructure capital expenditure budget – big data is just that: big.

Do not be afraid. Gartner has reported that competitive advantage goes to those who tap into this disruption of data. There are plenty of opportunities that involve harnessing big data and making sense of it. At one level, it’s important to just ask questions of the data. You can only make better decisions if you utilize the gems hidden in your vast data storehouses. Better, imagine what you could do if you could use all the data you have. And I mean: All. The. Data. That is pretty exciting. You’d be doing things like social community relationship analysis, persona-based segmentations, behavioral modeling, path to purchase analysis, real-time offer management, multi-touch attribution analysis, advertising and media analysis, and more.

Truthfully, it’s an incredible opportunity, but it can be a frustrating challenge to get your arms around.

One area where marketers are optimizing their investments in big data analysis is in the area of digital marketing attribution, which is itself the first step to digital marketing optimization. Most attribution today is last click, more for the complexity in managing data than from marketer choice. But now that we are tapping big data, attribution analysis can track behavioral insights and better understand and serve customers who are interacting across an expanding universe of multiple channels, touch points, and data sources – everything from email to search, digital advertising, websites, and social media.

The volume and complexity of new data sources require advanced analytics beyond “last-touch” or “last-click” attribution. To make accurate budgeting decisions, marketers need to take into account multi-channel, multi-touch purchasing cycles. Consider two examples of how attribution could work for you:

  • A major online and offline retailer leverages big data to derive consumer insights that are deployed across channels. Instead of relying on sampling, customer intelligence is created from big data analysis. Customers benefit from more personalized experiences.
  • An online-only retailer ties together clickstream information with email logs, ad viewing information, and operational information in order to identify customer preferences and behavior – and how to optimize marketing spend. This includes parsing of Twitter feeds and sentiment analysis.

Data-driven marketers must think differently. Our customers expect it, and our markets demand it. Consider these types of initiatives for your own organization, where digital marketing attribution can help:

  1. Gain visibility into marketing activity to optimize the use of new channels and deliver remarkable customer experience across conversation points.
  2. Automate marketing processes and simplify cross-channel measurements. Facilitate experimentation and iteration to optimize digital channels by using quantitative results as they happen.
  3. Empower yourself to think differently, in that the answer is already there – in the data.
  4. Take a complete look at the data, both digital and non-digital information, to get a more complete view of customers, their preferred channels, and interactive behavior.
  5. Procure the right big data analytics tools that will integrate with your marketing database, campaign management, CRM, and digital messaging solutions.

What is your story around attribution? Are you on a path to tap the disruption of data or are you sticking with last-click attribution models? Share with us your learnings below.

This column was originally published on March 5, 2012 on ClickZ.

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