Marketers (and many publishers) are wrestling with the problem of cross-channel attribution: understanding what each channel adds to the entire process.
Producing a breadcrumb trail of user paths is too simplistic. The real key is understanding the incremental effect of each unit of media.
“Why do birds suddenly appear,” mused songstress Karen Carpenter, “every time you are near?” Her hypothesis: that they, like her, wanted to be close to you, is a pretty decent description of the way most online marketing is tracked.
Last click tracking, for a publisher or a media manager, means having your channel as close as possible to the final conversion. There have been winners in this method, notably search and some affiliates, and losers, such as display.
It’s easy to see why last click is considered to give a skewed view of the online world. Consumers don’t just pitch up to a search engine and decide to buy a new laptop, or take out insurance.
Marketing activity aims to target consumers at all stages of the buying cycle, whether through brand building TV ads, coupons in magazines or paid search ads.
Marketers (and many publishers) are wrestling with the problem of cross-channel attribution, understanding what each channel adds to the entire process. At one level that’s a simple process: a universal tracking technology that can record impressions, clicks and conversions for each user.
But producing a breadcrumb trail of user paths is too simplistic. The real key is understanding the incremental effect of each unit of media.
Take, for example, re-targeting people who have come to your site but not converted with display ads. This is often considered ‘low-hanging fruit’ and can yield very attractive CPAs or ROI, sometimes better than search.
However, there’s a dark secret to re-targeting (whisper it) some of those people would have come back anyway without you prompting them. You are in fact paying for some conversions you would have got anyway.
As you recoil in horror at this discovery, let me reassure you I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with re-targeting. We run successful re-targeting campaigns for many of our clients.
The essential part is in knowing the incremental effect, and thus what your marginal cost is to acquire those conversions. Then you can really value the worth of the media channel.
That’s relatively easy to do with re-targeting by splitting cookie pools into control and target groups, and, rest easy, our experiments show that it’s still a worthwhile activity.
As this year develops, the focus on cross-channel attribution is only going to increase as marketers try to find the right values of the media they are buying.
Only then can we tackle the second part of the problem: optimisation. As Ms Carpenter might have added, we’ve only just begun.