On Thursday, November 19 dozens of brand marketers came together in Singapore for a full-day discussion of the issues that we are all facing as we drive digital change.

As with every Digital Cream event, the Chatham House Rule applied, so what was said cannot be attributed to any one marketer.  

But at the end of the event, the hosts of each table helpfully provided a summary of the day's discussions. 

The Marketing Attribution Management table was sponsored by lead sponsor, Datalicious, and hosted by Rahul Mudgal, ASEAN Marketing Leader for Mercer.

Here is a summary of what was discussed that day by the client-side marketers who participated.

Why marketing attribution?

One of the first questions tackled by the table was why is marketing attribution still such a hot topic?

The overall reason for the interest was that there are still a number of challenges that marketers face when trying to figure out how well their marketing strategies were working.

The first challenge is the fragmented media landscape. One participant said that they have to measure attribution across seven channels in order to justify media spend.

Another issue faced was that the cost metrics across campaigns were not consistent.  

Some campaigns were priced on cost-per impression (CPM) basis, other by cost-per-click (CPC), and still others on cost-per-acquisition (CPA). So even when attribution was possible, it was difficult to calculate the optimal media spend.

And finally, another participant said that even when you were able to calculate ROI, different departments have different KPIs making success metrics even more difficult to calculate. 

So, in some ways, being able to attribute media spend to a result was really just the start of the problem.

Most agreed, though, that ultimately marketing attribution created a better overall customer experience by increasing investment in the marketing channels which were working.

And as we all hit the limits of what we can achieve with metrics-led, performance marketing we need new attribution strategies to see the effectiveness of awareness-building marketing.

So difficult as it may be, working hard on marketing attribution was seen to be a worthwhile task.

Online vs. offline attribution

The next big topic was how to do marketing attribution across online and offline media.

Here, too, participants struggled to measure results of multiple, concurrent campaigns which were running online and offline and targeted the same customer profiles.

Marketers found that offline data was very difficult to match up with online data as there was a lack of customer identification at offline touchpoints. This meant that that measuring ROI for online campaigns in the offline space was nearly impossible.

Some solutions were suggested such as using promo codes and special URLs on offline media, but others stated that they had tried such things, but they didn't work consistently.  

And, though popular in the online space, A/B testing wasn't effective offline either.

One marketer said that the way that they have addressed the challenge was by offering combined services in different, distinct packages online and then advertising the packages offline. In this way, their team was able to gauge the effectiveness of the offline advertising.

Overall, though, everyone found it very difficult to accurately attribute offline marketing and come up with an overall marketing ROI.

Marketing attribution strategies

Despite all of the issues faced, however, marketers do have to perform attribution in order to justify continued media spend, so they had a good idea of what works.

Many said that they are still using simple models such as last-click attribution, where the last media touchpoint is given the credit for the conversion.

Others said that they had dabbled with first-click but it was agreed that those were practical, not ideal solutions.

Another idea was that using virtual, 'proxy' events and branded keywords for social media usage could show how effective a campaign was in raising awareness even without sales data.

And a final suggestion was that marketers could try making a change to a single channel while keeping everything else the same, and then you can gauge the impact of that singular change on overall conversions.

Custom attribution is the key

Ultimately, though, it was generally agreed that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing attribution.  

Marketers have to come up with their own custom attribution model which accounts for many factors such as the customer journey, the customer's context at touchpoints, and how much marketing automation is being used in the campaign.

Measuring results and making frequent tweaks are both very important if we are to avoid what one participant called the 'black magic' formula currently being used by most marketers to assign budgets across channels.

A word of thanks

We'd like to thank Datalicious for being our Lead Sponsor of the event and all of the client-side volunteers who hosted the tables.  

We look forward to working with you all again at future Digital Cream Singapore events!

Jeff Rajeck

Published 25 November, 2015 by Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck is the APAC Research Analyst for Econsultancy . You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.  

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