John Wanamaker is credited as saying:
"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."
The issue still keeps marketers up at night, and digital attribution rides in on a white horse promising to solve this problem. The basic idea is to follow an individual user throughout the journey to buying something, including every trackable marketing touchpoint. That is, track display impressions, clicks on ads, visits to the site, SEM and SEO visits, social media clicks.
From this barrage of information, you somehow work out a way to confidently say "this ad, in this location, to this segment is working". Most marketers are a long way from that.
A new Forester report (funded by the Internet Advertising Bureau and a selection of attribution vendors, caveat emptor) surveys a bunch of "Marketing Executives" to see what the state of actual implementation is out in the real world.
There's some heartening results. If you thought you were behind the pack with simple last-click attribution, take comfort that 44% of the respondents aren't allocating any credit for conversions to any marketing channel! Terrifying eh?
It can be a daunting field to enter, and the temptation is to jump into the most complex approach first. That would be a mistake. You'll spend a lot of time, energy and money getting a complete implementation of one of the high-end tools, and the gains will only be incremental to what you can do yourself. If you're not already using at least last-click attribution to inform your media spending, how is a more complicated, harder to explain approach going to get you more airtime in those decisions?
The more advanced approaches use complex algorithms to decide how to allocate credit across all the different touchpoints. This is well worth exploring once you've exhausted everything you can get out of simpler models up to and including linear allocation. There's a lot of gold to be had in those discussions, and as your organisation learns to make more data-informed decisions, you'll find more scope to ramp up the complexity to make additional gains.
One of the more interesting quotes from the report comes here:
“There’s no attribution approach that is 99.9% right, and it’s not coming along. But an inability to measure everything is not an excuse for not trying. You can measure a lot even with basic [fractional] attribution, and there’s a lot of improvement you can make.”
The report is well worth a read. Make sure your boss reads it too.