Navigating the Attribution Technology Landscape

May 04, 2017

Collective Measures

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Attribution has become a critical issue for digital marketers over the last several years. Budgets are being scrutinized more and more as to what efficiently and effectively drives the bottom line. Most businesses still operate on a last-click model with digital media, where full credit of a conversion is assigned to the media touchpoint a consumer last interacted with. This approach can be problematic in many ways – certain media channels and tactics can be undervalued or overvalued depending on which stage of the consumer journey they primarily contribute to. That’s why multi-touch attribution (MTA) has grown so much in both demand and application in recent years, supplementing the staple measurement method of marketing mix modeling (MMM), which has been around for decades.

_ MTA: Assigning specific credit to multiple digital channels

_ MMM: Top-down view of the impact of all marketing activities, including traditional

MTA is desirable for businesses and digital marketers currently stuck in the mud of last-click, as it paints a much more comprehensive picture of the diverse value the digital media mix provides in guiding consumers down the path to purchase. However, the many media and measurement tools utilized by businesses and agencies (web analytics, paid media platforms, SEO tools), causes a fragmentation of data sources, resulting in a lack of cohesion of data points, as well as wasted resources on manual analysis and integration. This has left the door open for platforms to centralize all this data; to automate analysis for marketers to inform future media and marketing decisions in a more holistic fashion to drive performance.

The increased focus on attribution means technology companies specializing in MTA have grown notably in recent years, with prominent research firms like Forrester and Gartner producing consistent, comprehensive content and analyses to help marketers navigate this complex and rapidly evolving landscape. Below are some key observations and considerations to keep top of mind for evaluation and selection of attribution providers.

Who Are Some of the Notable Players in the Space?

Based on industry reports via the aforementioned Forrester and Gartner, as well as our own internal research and conversations with providers, here is a list of some of the most notable and credible players in the attribution technology space today:

Granular capabilities and pricing varies, but most of these providers offer a comprehensive solution for MTA, while others also provide a complementary MMM feature within the same interface.

Following the establishment of a consideration set, examination of the specifics of each provider’s products, technology, and status in the industry can be conducted.

Criteria When Evaluating Providers?

While there are specific areas that teams prioritize during the assessment, there are five key areas that must be scrutinized during discussions:

  1. Credibility: Reputation for any marketing technology company is a huge factor, but particularly in this young attribution space, some providers have higher degrees of credibility than others. Based on neutral 3rd party assessments, word-of-mouth, unique partnerships with other companies, and how long they’ve been in business are all things worth looking at closely.
  1. Unique Offerings: All of these providers offer some form of MTA, but all of them have different methodologies, varying degrees of sophistication, and proprietary technology that makes them stand out from the crowd. Core requirements and needs should be identified and aligned with the most relevant and unique capabilities.
  1. Data Quality: As data is the fundamental mechanism that drives attribution technology, its quality and accuracy are critical when talking to potential partners. Some providers emphatically state “data hygiene” as either a core value of their company or a staple feature of their platform, which would make them immediately rise to the top of any consideration set.
  1. Service: Most of what has been discussed thus far has talked about technology and products, but the setup and management of an attribution solution requires substantial education, onboarding, and collaboration with internal teams and agency partners. The level and quality of services from providers of interest should be examined thoroughly.
  1. Pricing: There’s no silver bullet for attribution, but these providers are a step in the right direction. And that one-of-a-kind level of data and subsequent insight comes at a cost. Pricing for these providers ranges drastically depending on the volume + diversity of datasets, minimums hover around $10K/month, which is a substantial investment for many organizations. That doesn’t mean marketers should go with the cheapest option automatically, but pricing structure is a crucial component to consider.

What Does This Mean for Marketers?

Marketers and business decision-makers who depend on last-click for the foreseeable future, will likely continue to prioritize low-funnel, direct response tactics like retargeting and brand paid search. As growth stretch goals continue to stay out of reach, the top of the funnel will need to be filled with new prospects via awareness media. Validating awareness tactics needs to go beyond impressions and reach, looking more at cross-channel impact (lift in new site traffic, lift in paid + organic search, etc.).

On the other hand, for marketers that are tired of manual cross-channel analysis and are ready to move on to the more comprehensive MTA, all signs point to these attribution providers becoming more and more prominent, resulting in lower price points and greater accessibility. Agencies and client teams should determine what the current and future state of measurement is for their business and media, and decide if they’re ready to start engaging attribution providers in a serious manner.

Photo Source: Pixabay

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