Digital marketing attribution refers to the process of assigning credit for steps that consumers take before they finally complete a marketing goal. Some examples of the final goals might include making an online purchase, completing a lead form, call-in, or even walk-in. Typically, this series of steps is referred to as the buyer’s journey. Since eight out of ten consumers conduct online research before they make purchases, the buyer’s journey also called Micro-Moments can be long and complex.
Many brands rely upon multi-channel marketing that could consist of internet ads, videos, emails, mobile marketing, TV or radio spots, and more. When brands expose themselves to users’ multiple times, using multiple formats, it’s often very difficult to assign credit for a sale to one particular step along the way. Many marketers have taken shortcuts because they lacked the tools or expertise to properly attribute sales to various consumer actions along the buyer’s journey; however, oversimplification of attribution often leads to incomplete or even wrong conclusions.
Is it the End of Last Click Attribution?
To simplify metrics, many marketers and digital agencies have simply relied upon last-click attribution. In other words, they credit the sale or lead for the click immediately prior to the sale. It’s simpler to regard that last click as the source of the action; however, it’s usually not very accurate.
For instance, the referral information in the last click may make it look like the buyer simply searched for the brand and product online, found a product page, and made a purchase. With only the last click for guidance, it’s impossible to say if that consumer first browsed a sales page because of a previous video, email, advertisement, or social post. Customers may return to a website days later and on a different device to make a purchase.
This limited type of attribution also makes it impossible to know if consumers checked the website before they visited a store to make an in-person purchase. For example, customers might check online for store hours, prices, or in-store availability. Better attribution models give marketers a more complete picture of the way that customers finally reached a decision to make a purchase.
Thus, last-click attribution can actually devalue your overall advertising strategy. In addition, many businesses will cut and allocate more funds to last click sources, which can have a negative effect on their brand and reach.
“Last click attribution can actually devalue your overall advertising strategy” – Brad Holly
Google Announces a New and Powerful Digital Attribution Platform
In a move that’s good for marketers and no doubt, good for their own company, Google announced that it has plans to cure marketers of their last click habit. They want to offer marketers a better idea about the return on their advertising dollars all along the buyer’s journey. At the same time, according to Adage, marketers can also learn how their online investment in advertising helps support integrated marketing channels like TV ads and in-store visits.
Google says that its new product, Google Attribution, can help gather the analytic information to better assign attribution along with different steps. Again, the problem is complex. For instance, a consumer may have signed up for an email newsletter, clicked a link in one of those emails, and then watched a video before searching for store hours or a sales page. Only then, did the consumer either place an online order on the company website or get in the car to visit a local store. It’s fair to attribute some of the revenue to that last click, but may it’s more accurate to divvy up credit to different touchstones along the way. Better yet how about assigning a real value to the first click? The click or action which initially won your customer’s heart and began the buyer’s journey.
Google says that machine learning provides the brains for this powerful analytics tool. As marketers use the tool more, it gets better and better at assigning portions of credit to different touchstones that may have helped influence the buyer’s decision. For instance, the consumer’s last action before they made a purchase might be, search for a product on an eCommerce website. In this case, Google Attribution may also determine that a share of the credit belongs to an email the customer opened before they made the search and if so, it will attribute some of the credit to that email.
The Importance of Multi-Touch Analytics
Attempts to oversimplify metrics can result in very misleading answers. It’s unlikely that the very last step in a buyer’s journey was the only step the consumer took. In addition, the last step might not have even been the most influential part of the journey. The popularity of last-click attribution must be attributed to the fact that it was easy to capture data with existing tools.
What many advertisers don’t know is that it’s possible to analyze multi-channel analytics and attribution reporting in Google Analytics. Unfortunately, it seems few marketers know how to do it correctly or they simply ignore it. Relying upon incomplete or even very misleading information just because it was simple to obtain can be a costly mistake in any industry. It could lead marketers to give too much credit to some parts of the sales funnel and not enough to other parts. New products, like Google Attribution, can offer performance and intelligence that will give marketers better answers to their attribution questions.
As a Digital Marketing Agency, Actuate Media has experience using attribution modeling in Google Analytics. We often look at first, linear, and last lead attribution to assign conversion value when analyzing our client’s analytic data. This helps our clients better understand the buyer’s journey and how the different components of their advertising mix influence the journey.