The research is based on an online survey of almost 1,000 practitioners from Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. Here are some key charts from the report, alongside some insight into the state of marketing attribution in 2017 compared to last year.

Attribution is on the rise

In 2016, 31% of companies were carrying out attribution on ‘all or most’ of their marketing activities. This has increased to 39% this year, with the percentage of companies practising any type of marketing attribution at all also increasing from 79% to 81%.

However, despite this increased usage, there are still questions over whether or not companies are seeing the benefits. The main struggle is the ability to properly interpret data, with 26% of agency respondents saying that their clients typically carry out attribution but they’re not sure how to effectively analyse the results.

What’s more, 70% of businesses now agree with the statement ‘we don’t action the insights we get from attribution’ – up from 51% last year.

Why is this the case? It mainly appears to be due to the sheer amount of touchpoints and data available, which is becoming increasingly difficult for marketers to decipher.

Confidence in custom attribution grows

While first-click and last-click remains the most-used attribution methods – cited by 39% and 44% of companies respectively – custom attribution has seen a rise in popularity. 

Now, 29% of companies use custom attribution, a figure up from 21% in 2016.

The reason for this increase in favour is higher levels of sophistication. Unlike first or last-click, which ignore other touchpoints that might influence decision-making, custom attribution draws on one or more established methods, while simultaneously using data points that are most appropriate for a particular business. 

Unsurprisingly, custom attribution is also deemed to be the most effective method, described as ‘very effective’ by 48% of companies who are currently using it. 

A lack of knowledge remains the biggest obstacle

When asked why they don’t carry out marketing attribution or have delayed its use, the majority of companies cited a lack of knowledge as the reason. This has remained the biggest obstacle to implementation, only slightly increasing from 58% in 2016 to 59% in 2017.

Second to this issue is technology limitations, with 53% of companies citing this compared to 41% last year. There has also been a rise in respondents citing too much disparate data as a barrier, perhaps indicating that companies are becoming more educated in the topic as a whole (and therefore more appreciative of how data and tech issues might impede their ability to proceed).

Out of the companies already implementing marketing attribution, 35% of respondents cite defining the online customer journey as the biggest barrier to effective usage. Again, considering the increasing number of potential touchpoints in the typical customer journey, and difficulty in tracking each one – this is perhaps unsurprising. 

Optimising media mix is main goal for 2017

In 2016, the biggest attribution goal for marketers was to build an understanding of the customer journey. 

Fast forward a year and this has now been overtaken by media mix optimisation, with 60% of respondents citing this as a ‘high priority’ for 2017. Third on the list for this year is to justify digital spend, but much like before, there is not much difference in the extent to which companies are prioritising these top three attribution goals. 

Finally, other goals such as budget optimisation and determining correct affiliate payments have slipped even lower on the list. However this does not necessarily suggest that they are less important, but perhaps that they have become standard and everyday practices rather than top priorities. 

Subscribers can download the full State of Marketing 2017 report in full here.