Origami Logic’s “Now You Know” blog series answers common questions and “how to’s” for marketing measurement best practices. This series features subject matter experts, guest authors, and Origami Logic team members to provide solutions and insight into marketing must-know topics like agile marketing analytics, cross-channel attribution, building a customized marketing dashboard, and more. Learn how to address these topics and leverage the Origami Logic platform features to master marketing performance measurement and maximize your marketing investments.

This post will answer all your basic questions about navigating and addressing key limitations to cross-channel attribution, so you can make the best, most informed marketing decisions.

Marketing organizations are rushing to cross-channel attribution solutions as they hold the promise of enabling marketers to answer two important questions: (1) which channels are driving sales, and (2) how should budgets be allocated across channels to maximize sales.

While attribution can be useful to analyze marketing activities, implementing such solutions is not easy. Unfortunately, it isn’t until a significant investment has been made when most organizations realize that attribution doesn’t provide the answers they need.

Four Steps to Successfully Implement Marketing Attribution

Marketers today are facing an increasingly diverse set of challenges. On one hand, they are pushing out messages at a breakneck pace to a continually increasing number of digital channels. At the same time, they have never had more pressure to be accountable in pursuit of ROI. To try to make sense of what’s happening, many organizations are looking at attribution solutions as the silver bullet to help them understand how channels are contributing to sales.

There is hope, however. In order to make attribution a valuable part of the marketing process, marketers who want to understand the contribution of channels should take the following steps:

Step 1 – Understand the Limitations of Attribution

To ensure that an attribution project will succeed, it’s imperative to understand the limitations of attribution solutions. Today’s solutions use a variety of methods — including first touch, last touch and algorithmic — to try to accurately assign attribution credit. However, that remains an elusive exercise as the accuracy of each method is questionable due to two primary issues:

  • Attribution solutions don’t take into account all marketing channels by often ignoring offline activities. Heavily skewed towards digital channels, they don’t look at the complete picture. Attribution models tend to give digital channels credit for the vast majority of conversions by focusing on online events (click-throughs, signups, etc.) and the most recent marketing activities (promotions, email campaigns, etc.). However, offline budgets are currently larger than digital budgets and will continue to play a significant role in the marketing mix for the foreseeable future.
  • Attribution solutions ignore brand lift. Today’s solutions assign full credit for conversions to specific channels, and they don’t take into account the role of brand-building activities, or what is known as brand lift. Attribution fails to account for customers who are inclined to convert because of their strong affinity for a brand. As brand lift is ignored, the contribution of certain channels is overstated. This could lead to potentially detrimental budget allocation decisions.

Step 2 – Establish a Data Foundation and Measurement Framework

The first prerequisite for operationalizing the outputs of attribution is to establish a data foundation. This begins by thinking through the customer journey and identifying the touch points involved. What’s measurable and how can you capture the associated data? What can you (and can’t you) link to revenue, or another key business outcome? In what situations can you syndicate data from one source to another? Marketers will not be able to properly measure success without a framework in place.

Step 3 – Have an “Always-On” Multi-Channel View of Performance

Most enterprise marketing organizations already have a strong command of individual channel performance, but a view of multi-channel results is usually not so readily available. More often than not, organizations use a manual aggregation process within Excel that’s both time-consuming and fraught with error. Some have gone a step further and pushed their channel data into a business intelligence (BI) system. While that approach is much less static, marketers quickly discover that most BI tools weren’t designed to properly accommodate marketing data and are difficult to maintain in the ever-changing marketing data ecosystem. Marketers need a way to systematically collect, cleanse, customize and normalize data from all marketing channels on a regular basis.

Step 4 – Implement Testing to Determine Brand Lift

As noted earlier, most of today’s attribution methods do not account for brand lift and incorrectly assign credit for natural or brand-building conversions. This can greatly overstate the role certain channels play in campaigns, particularly for well-known brands where the population of naturally occurring conversions can be significant.

To avoid this, marketers must calculate the naturally occurring volume of conversions for each channel. A/B testing is often the best, most cost-effective method. With testing, you can determine the incremental value (or lift) of one channel over another. Once you’ve tested and determined those naturally occurring conversion volumes, you’ll have the information you need to assign proper credit to each channel.

Stepping Past the Silver Bullet

There is no silver bullet when it comes to attribution. Even if vendors address some of the limitations in the coming years, marketers will still need to establish a solid data foundation and measurement framework. A multi-channel view of performance to support frequent, granular decision-making will still be a must have. And conducting tests to determine brand lift before assigning credit to a channel will still be critical for attribution accuracy.

Start strengthening your attribution initiative now. Tackle each of those needs as prerequisites so your attribution projects can drive smarter marketing decisions and help improve business results.

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Learn how to navigate and address the four key limitations to marketing attribution, so you can make the best, most informed marketing decisions.

Understanding Attribution