3 Actions That Enable Cross-Channel Attribution

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Every marketing team and campaign has its All Stars and MVPs—just be sure to recognize each player's contributions throughout the game.

Tony Zito, Rakuten Marketing
Tony Zito, Rakuten Marketing

How can marketers make cross-channel attribution a reality?

Whether it's the World Series, the NBA Finals, or the Super Bowl, fans tend to focus more on the ninth-inning home run, the slam-dunk at the buzzer, or the winning touchdown than on the actions leading up to the final score. Attribution is a lot like that. While the final moments on the consumer's path to purchase can make all the difference, conversion wouldn't be possible without the support of several marketing channels.

Consider these two facts: Google Analytics recently reported that, on average, customers interact with a brand 4.3 times over a two-day period before making a purchase. Additionally, the average shopper in the U.S. consults a total of 10.4 new and traditional media sources before she makes a purchase. With so many ways to reach customers, both online and offline, the attribution model has become more complex than ever.

This isn't new. For years now the entire industry has been talking about the challenges of incomplete and inconsistent attribution models such as pay-per-click, last click, and first click. Yet those models are still very much alive. However, it's not because we all don't know better. It's because the alternative—a streamlined and transparent cross-channel attribution model—seems out of reach. It's not.

To make cross-channel attribution a reality, marketers should take the following three actions:

1. Develop a consistent and verifiable attribution methodology

Given that every channel has its own way of demonstrating its value, it's impossible to create an apples-to-apples attribution formula. Still, a good many companies equally credit each channel that was involved in the sale. By rewarding less-active contributors you negate the point of attribution and demotivate the teams behind higher-performing channels.

So, instead of applying an across-the-board split for each channel, consider basing your attribution formula on the ROI that each channel delivers. Along with providing greater transparency, this approach allows you to more appropriately reward the higher performing channels while also recognizing the role that other channels play in the sale.

2. Acknowledge that transparency is table stakes and analytics are essential

You already know that cross-channel attribution requires transparency across each marketing channel. Yet, did you realize the importance of combining that transparency with analytics to best understand the entire customer journey?

For example, holiday campaign results may show that a display campaign drove an exceptional return on ad spend, followed by email and search. Taken on face value, you may choose to invest more in display than in other channels. However, what if email recovered a significant amount of abandoned shopping carts that initiated from a display campaign?

Further, what if search was the most effective first touch and you decided to eliminate it from your next campaign? This is where analytics and transparency are critical.

Without a clear understanding of each marketing channel and which combination of channels is most effective, you could over- or underspend on each campaign. The challenge is in bringing transparency and analytics together. This is where an attribution platform comes in. The foundational elements of any effective attribution platform should include:

• A single point of entry to eliminate the confusion created by the abundance of marketing channels

• Transparency and advanced analytics into the performance of each channel

• Insight into critical performance factors, including how many times a customer is exposed to a message before making a purchase, the cost of acquiring a new customer, and the impact of combining marketing channels to increase revenue

3. Integrate your teams

Many marketing departments maintain separate budgets to support silo efforts with larger cross-channel funds allocated only to bigger activities, such as the launch of a new product line or a holiday campaign. However, the rise of omnichannel marketing demands that we focus less on single channel efforts and more on the customer experience, wherever it leads. This often requires a combination of channels.

Given this, CMOs may want to rethink their organizational structures, as well as the budget allocation for each marketing channel. Fully optimizing their spend requires an integrated team and technology. Every marketing team and campaign has its All Stars, MVPs, and Hall of Famers—just be sure to recognize each player's contributions throughout the game.

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Tony Zito, Rakuten Marketing

Tony Zito, a seasoned entrepreneur and technology business executive with more than 20 years of experience, is president of Rakuten Marketing. In his role he's responsible for overseeing all aspects of the company's operations, sales and marketing in the United States, and the growth of the company's digital marketing portfolio, which spans affiliate, display, retargeting, search marketing, mobile, and automated product feeds. Prior to his current role, the University of Utah grad served as CEO of Rakuten MediaForge and before that as CEO of mediaFORGE. Earlier in his career Zito was director at Acumen Biologics, and cofounded ezADit. com and Precision Data Link.

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