How can marketers make cross-channel attribution a reality?
For the past two decades the marketing mantra has been “right message, right time, right channel, right person.” While this is a noble pursuit, it’s an outdated concept and marginalizes the current landscape and technological capabilities that marketers can depend on for campaign execution and results.
There’s no right channel anymore because consumers are not single-threaded. As for time, marketers need to provide an always-on customer experience. Increasingly, a brand’s message is becoming comingled and repetitive to consumers, leaving companies struggling to find the mix of message, channel, time, and audience that best drives intent to purchase.
It’s no longer about the right message, at the right time, in the right channel; it’s a consistent message all the time across multiple addressable channels. The concept now is about delivering the relevant message everywhere at any time.
The growing challenge is how we measure the allocation of success across channels. Last-click attribution has failed with its overly simplistic view of customer behavior. We need a more comprehensive solution that acknowledges the “everywhere” aspect inherent in this new reality. Marketers must combine the data available with the “everywhere and always-on” experience that consumers have with their brand.
Big Data gives us insight into what the consumer wants, needs, has done, and enjoys, as well as provides a degree of responsibility to use that data to get smarter—not only smarter about our customer, but also about those things that make our marketing channels effective. Companies that don’t use data to get smarter will be displaced by businesses that can implement strategies faster, based on shared attribution and a recognition of the “everywhere” experience.
Cross-channel attribution is one of the most vibrant and at times polarizing discussions in the industry. Here are four things you can do today to prove you’re advancing your company’s marketing performance analyses.
Come to terms with your consumer
Consumers are influenced through multiple touchpoints with a company, product, or service. And while some customers purchase instantly, most will purchase after the culmination of multiple influences. No one buys only because of an email. They purchase because they clicked on the email and bought on the website. Given this shared experience, cross-channel attribution is about which factors influenced the consumer to take action; it’s about learning that email works best when paired with another channel. Or that you have a better social marketing effort when you echo that message in other channels. It’s learning that your ideal customer does X, Y, and Z, and that’s what you want to reinforce. We must move past the notion that the last thing that the customer clicked on was the one that pushed them over the edge, because there were many things that got them to that point.
I’m a firm believer in surrounding yourself with very smart people. While you’re not going to be writing queries against revenue from different channels, it’s worth the time to understand the basics of some of the common approaches to attribution—and there are many of them.
Embrace the change
The core of cross-channel attribution is about allocating “credit” when a conversion occurs. It’s about getting away from awarding all revenue to the last medium that resulted in a conversion. Multiple internal stakeholders are going to have to agree on what should be given to who based on the customer experience prior to the sale. This is a large challenge within companies as groups vie for budget based on their previous success. People are going to look at this as high risk, a potentially significant loss of revenue, and fight that change. But it’s unavoidable based on the vast amounts of data that we have and the detail we can correlate to the customer and channel.
Prepare for a no-silo workplace
Customers don’t think in terms of channels. They see the brand and their interactions with that brand, and can be offended when their loyalty isn’t transferred to the right touchpoint. They expect the brands they interact with to provide a highly relevant and seamless interaction at every touchpoint, at every time.
When you fully embrace cross-channel attribution, you’ll see a destruction of the walls that have built up within different areas of expertise. Addressable and non-addressable media will merge and rely on each other for the influences that happen with communication; your strategy will be focused on not only what your specific channel can do, but also how you fit into the complete picture of customer experience. You’ll understand the effect your channel has on other channels’ success, and vice versa.
Cross-channel attribution is a reality. It gives marketers the information they need to make the right decisions and serve the consumer with a consistent message at multiple times across multiple addressable channels. Embrace it.
Ryan Phelan, Acxiom
Acxiom’s VP, global shared services, Ryan Phelan, is a nationally recognized thought leader, writer, and speaker on subjects relating to the use of complex data practices to drive effective strategies in email marketing, social, and mobile. Phelan, who brings more than 15 years of online experience to Acxiom, was recognized as one of the top 30 digital strategists in 2013 by the Online Marketing Institute and was a keynote speaker at the 2014 Email Evolution Conference. The San Francisco resident is heavily involved in industry organizations as a member of the board for the ESPC and is currently serving as the co-chair of the DMA’s Email Experience Council Member Advisory Board. When he isn’t busy reading the latest promotional email, the Conception Seminary College grad can be found on the golf course or sailing—both of which lack Internet connectivity, much to his chagrin.