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Why Advertisers Can’t Rely on Single-Click Attribution Anymore

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 12 Sep, 2017
Essential Essential topic

An increase of touchpoints has made it harder to tell what drives customers to purchase

Digital advertising used to be so simple. Marketers would place an ad in a premium spot on an affiliate platform, leading the customer to see the ad, click the ad, and be converted. The well-known click-based attribution model let marketers accurately track that short and sweet customer journey with ease. However, a recent survey by Qualtrics and AdRoll shows that while 65 percent of marketing professionals still use single-click attribution, 57 percent want to toss that model out the window.

Their reasoning is simple: The digital world has gotten more complex, and so has the customer journey. Customers don’t just search for a product, click an ad that comes up, and convert, so relying on the old single-click attribution model is a good way to lose customers and market share.

Digital platforms that marketers use to engage customers are moving away from clicks, so measuring them isn’t a good way to quantify your advertising efforts. Cookies and programmatic are both in play, and display retargeting helps hit the same high-value customers.

Few online consumers click on banner ads anymore, so marketers have created ways to attribute view-through metrics rather than click. Social platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat aren't click-based, and Facebook allows advertisers to target specific social networks and use metrics to measure performance and attribution.

Plus, now that most consumers use mobile devices as well as computers, there’s been an explosion of app platforms and cross-device usage. Advertisers can now use data matching to bring information from offline consumers, TV, and the Internet of Things all under one umbrella. Needless to say, there’s been a rapid increase in touchpoints, so it’s even harder to tell what drives customers to purchase.

The New and Confusing Customer Journey

Building attribution models based on the entire customer journey makes your marketing efforts more effective, but it’s much more difficult to do now. It’s hard to figure out which touchpoints a customer is exposed to and which ones are more influential than others.

On top of that, factor in that we live in an omnichannel world. Customers are on their computers, phones, and tablets simultaneously: Seventy-five percent of Millennials use multiple devices daily, as do 83 percent of Gen Xers and 66 percent of Baby Boomers. These customers are being exposed to brands on all those devices at the same time.

Omnichannel stats

Figuring out the customer journey is hard work, but if you don't attempt to understand it, you risk your competition beating you to the punch. Those competitors will have a major advantage and the ability to own the space, which will potentially cost you market share and brand exposure.

Even without the competition, using outdated models negatively affects your ability to gain customers and create effective programs. Even Google is updating its analytics platform: The company recently released Google Attribution, a free program that uses data from DoubleClick Search, Google Analytics, and Google AdWords to provide a broader analysis of omnichannel and cross-device conversions.

Because last-click attribution is biased toward things like brand search and affiliate sites, dedicating all your money toward those channels might limit your ability to find and engage new customers. You’ll just be hitting the same audience repeatedly, and a decline in new customer acquisition leads to a decline in business.

Also, if you’re using search, programmatic display, Facebook, or shopping-engine bidding, your bidding models within campaigns won’t be built correctly. By not understanding the entire customer journey, including cross-channel overlap and multi-click attribution, your models will place too much weight in the wrong places. That’s a recipe for an inefficient, unsophisticated, and possibly ineffective program.

Get Your Customer Journey Back on Track

With all the touchpoints out there, it might be difficult to know which to focus on. However, nailing down the right ones will help you understand your customers and know how to best engage them. Here are four platforms to look at to figure out where your customers are seeing your brand and why they are converting:

Upstream Analytics

Clickstream data can provide insights into every touchpoint over a period of time. You can compare the online behavior of your best customers to the behavior of those who don’t convert. You can even look at every URL and domain they visited over a two-week span to gauge the differences and see where there should be additional value associated to certain domains.

Knowing this information can improve your decision-making because you know what marketing efforts are most valuable. You might find you need to increase your budget for certain channels, prioritize influencer marketing, blow out your content strategy, or even invest more time and money into PR and paid media placements.

Off-Site Brand Affinity Data

Sometimes exposure to branding, creative, or advertising doesn’t directly yield conversions. For instance, a customer might see your video ad on YouTube, but instead of clicking the ad in the video, he searches for your company on Google and then goes to your site.

Using last-click attribution, organic brand search gets the credit, and you might be tempted to direct more funds to this channel when in fact the video advertising created the awareness. Being able to connect the dots from the original exposure of the YouTube ad to the Google search shows the campaign’s true impact and allows you to optimize your programs on the basis of those insights.

Off-Site Conversion Data

If your company sells products through a third party, you might struggle to tie product purchase behavior on those sites to your brand advertising. You could also potentially be double-dipping in your costs — paying first for the advertising to drive converting traffic to another site and then paying a revenue share or an affiliate commission on a product on that site.

You might be doing all the work on both fronts. Whether that’s a big concern or not, knowing the quantifiable value can help you figure out what to do about it from a campaign optimization standpoint.

Purchase Behavior

Knowing what your customers purchase online shows you what is meaningful and valuable to them. You can partner with analytics companies or research firms if you don’t have access to this kind of data and use it so you don’t risk wasting time, research, and energy troubleshooting. The insights from this data let you focus on the areas where customers have been willing to invest their time and money.

Today, the customer journey is all over the place, and it’s harder and harder to truly understand their actions. Advertisers have a hard time pinpointing not just what consumers are doing, but also what actions are relevant to the parts of the customer journey that they're interested in.

By abandoning the last-click attribution model and focusing on these four touchpoints to understand the customer journey, you can attract more customers, grow your business, and own the space.

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By Expert commentator

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