Actionable Analysis: Why Accurate Attribution is So Important and What You Can Do Once You Have It

Matt Voda - OptiMineSince the dawn of advertising, savvy marketers have strived to measure the impact of their campaigns. Easier said than done, of course. While we as marketers have come a long way since the days of John Wanamaker, the irony of today’s rapid shift from offline to digital is that it is actually more difficult than ever to accurately measure marketing ROI. The risk of relying on inaccurate and/or incomplete data is akin to driving with an outdated map; you will get to a destination, it just might be the wrong one. And it might take you a lot longer than you’d planned.

Accurate attribution – having reliable data about which channels and touch points work and combine together to produce outcomes, and by how much – is more important than ever. With the increasing number of channels through which marketers can – and must – meet their customers, how does one know how to allocate a finite (or tightening) budget? With accurate attribution comes not just more confidence in the strategies and tactics in place today, but most importantly, better decision-making, improved efficiency and effectiveness, and higher ROI. Accurate attribution helps you confidently zero in on your next best moves.

One common misconception is that for attribution to be accurate, marketers must track each and every move of their consumers, piecing together activity across a tangled web of devices and channels. This strategy leads to massive investments in time, large amounts of unnecessary data, high costs and increased project risk. Not to mention the risk of jeopardizing customer trust due to privacy concerns.

Many attribution platforms remain rooted in this tracking approach and suffer from measurement challenges posed by a myriad of mobile devices and the difficulty of tracking how offline advertising contributes to marketing impacts (the Wanamaker problem in the digital age). Each of these elements alone can leave significant gaps in a marketer’s view of complete and accurate ROI measurement.

The other issue with many attribution approaches is that they simply can’t move fast enough to keep up with today’s always-on environment. Outdated data leads to a higher likelihood of inaccuracy, which in turns leads to less-than-optimal decisions.

For true accuracy, measurement approaches must hit the following marks to enable the marketer to succeed in today’s increasingly dynamic and fragmented environment:

  • Current and Persistent Analysis: Consider all of the changes to the marketing ecosystem in just the last 12 months alone. We’ve seen more new ad networks and platforms come online from the likes of Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, and Tumblr; the arrival of new commerce platforms (e.g., buy buttons on Twitter, mobile payments on Apple devices); and a slew of data indicating fundamental shifts in consumer behaviors with mobile, social and video. If your measurement solution, analytics and models take months or even years to update, how can you possibly stay current with this revolutionary market shift and have confidence that your measures are keeping pace?
  • Truly Cross-Channel: Many of today’s attribution solutions are digitally focused, missing the impact and influence of offline branding efforts such as TV, radio, print, direct mail, and outdoor. All channels matter and contribute to varying degrees and therefore should be considered with regard to attribution. In addition, understanding the impact an ad in one channel has on the performance of an ad in another has the potential to uncover significant opportunities and greater ROI.
  • Granular: Channel-level measurements may have worked for older, more traditional annual media planning, but today there is significant value, money and impact to be found at the most granular ad levels. And practitioners, the people on your teams that manage specific campaigns and programs, must be armed with granular, ad-level analytics to drive their day-to-day decision-making.

The key to reaping the benefits from accurate attribution is making the data actionable. This means not only having complete, timely, granular cross-channel insight into what’s driving conversions and by how much, but also being agile to act upon that information in a timely manner. This means immediately upping your investment in that Facebook ad you discover is driving a boatload of conversions through other channels, or expanding your investment in Pinterest after a focused test of its value in your marketing ecosystem. Data is useless unless it’s delivered in a way that marketers can immediately use to better their campaigns and increase their ROI. Customers are moving fast, and the marketers have to keep up.

Matt Voda is the Chief Marketing Officer at OptiMine Software, Inc., where he is responsible for marketing, product management, and inside sales initiatives. He has more than 20 years experience that spans both Fortune® 100 companies, such as UnitedHealth Group and Digital River, as well as successful emerging enterprises. He is an expert in ROI measurement, direct and database marketing, consumer engagement strategies, SaaS, and product management. Voda graduated from University of Minnesota with a BS in Business and Marketing.