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Study: 70% of Marketers Don’t Know What To Do with Attribution Insights

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One of the original promises of digital marketing was more transparent performance measurement for marketers. The reality has been a bit more complicated than that because the consumer journey is multi-media (online and offline), multi-device and non-linear.

In most cases, attributing a conversion or KPI with a campaign isn’t a one-to-one relationship. Still, marketers are engaged in attribution activities, with a new AdRoll and Econsultancy survey showing that 51% of companies in North America are carrying out attribution on “most or all” of their campaigns. Globally this figure is at 39%.

The survey was administered to 987 marketing practitioners in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. While it is clear that attribution is a priority within the sample, the survey also found that 70% of marketers don’t “action the insights” derived from attribution. This was up significantly from 57% in 2016.

Attribution efforts can be cumbersome and tedious, and marketers, as the study shows, aren’t sure what to do with the information once they get it. The study showed that the objectives with the data are optimize the media mix (60%), understand the customer journey (57%) or justify digital spend (56%). So while the objectives with the data are clear, marketers aren’t acting on the insights. Why?

This suggests that the marketers are using attribution in a more superficial way to simply prove marketing works rather than innovate or optimize. Budgets and spending are the lenses through which marketers view attribution with 70% saying “better allocation of budgets across channels” is the benefit of attribution.

In actual practice, 32% said they increased spend as a result of attribution, 32% saw no impact on spend, 36% decreased spending. The level of increase or decrease varied by media channel, but compared to 2016, display advertising was the only channel to see growth in 2017.

Meanwhile, location data is transforming traditional notions of attribution, where consumers exposed to a mobile ad can, in some cases, be correlated with a store visit via data derived from mobile apps with “location on” services. This is giving rise to new ad models like “cost-per-visit” but these models aren’t yet the norm.

While marketers are engaging in attribution efforts, it appears these efforts are extremely variable and the implications aren’t clear. In addition, attribution is almost singularly used for budget considerations and creative, as is often the case, is overlooked.

Marketers need to see media and marketing more holistically. What combination of channels worked best? How did these channels play off each other? What copy/creative had the biggest impact? Answering these questions will uncover opportunities for innovation and optimization.

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