Solving Mobile’s Attribution Problem

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Telmetrics-After-the-ClickThis is the first in a series of articles, sponsored by Telmetrics, focused on the acute problem of attribution in mobile. You can also view the company’s talk at Street Fight Summit on the topic.

Picture this: A consumer at home wants to know where to find a scooter for her toddler son for Christmas. She doesn’t want to buy it online because she wants to ensure it’s sturdy enough, something she can only do by getting a look in the physical world. She searches online for a local store that has them in stock.

From an analytics standpoint, that’s where the trail goes dead. “Attribution,” the holy grail of tracking consumers from online behavior through offline purchase, remains elusive — somewhat. And perhaps not for much longer. Two developments have been changing this history, driven in large part by calls: The rise of smartphones, melding click and call behavior; and the introduction of desktop-to-iPhone calls from local search results as part of Apple’s “Continuity” feature in OSX Yosemite. Now, consumer behavior beyond clicking on an ad or search result becomes something that allows advertisers to gather additional data and actionable insight into their prospective customers.

The intent in a call is typically much greater on average than in a click.

What’s more, as social media usage increases and mobile devices become ever more ubiquitous — 71% of the adult U.S. population own a smartphone as of September 2014 — mobile as a marketing channel is experiencing explosive growth. Marketers spent nearly $18 billion for ads on phones and tablets in 2013, a 105% year-over-year increase, and that figure is expected to exceed $31 billion in 2014.

Mobile’s Essential Role in the Purchase Path

This burgeoning digital platform plays an important role in consumers’ purchasing decisions, especially as mobile now exceeds the desktop as the device of choice for consumers, both inside and outside the home: Mobile is influencing offline spending.

Mobile Path to PurchaseTelmetrics and xAd’s periodic report on the mobile path to purchase, conducted by Nielsen, shows that 42% of mobile users consider mobile the most important resource in their purchase process, and more than 50% use mobile at the beginning of the purchase-process funnel, where callers are in a stronger position to be influenced — only one-fifth know exactly what they are looking for when beginning their search.

In addition, a majority of these mobile shoppers want a location within five miles, and 49% are looking for deals. Further, of consumers who begin their purchase decisions online, 52% make in-store visits during their search, and 64% complete their transactions offline.

Measuring Intent and Action

Traditional online metrics, focused more on website clicks, fail to accurately capture this online-to-offline attribution. How can companies “close the loop” on measuring mobile ad effectiveness? An important way is through calls, particularly those placed through local search, directories and publishers.

With pay-per-call campaigns, marketers are buying calls versus buying impressions. This is particularly important for SMBs because there’s less of a risk in capital than with a typical online performance marketing campaign. An advertiser pays only for the calls that meet specific lead criteria. If the campaign doesn’t work, they’re not footing the bill. What’s more, the intent in a call is typically much greater on average than in a click.

Calls for appointments, reservations, hours of operation, emergency services or a need for more detailed information not available on a business’s website are among the key reasons why consumers make calls from online search, and statistics show that 70% of mobile searchers have used the click-to-call button and most want to be able to place a call during each stage of the search and purchase process. As such, calls become a key offline engagement point.

These findings demonstrate how important it is for marketers to gain visibility into offline engagement points, which in turn helps them monetize these calls for both local and national advertising clients. Small businesses already understand the value of calls from search: 66% of SMB advertisers say it is their single most important lead.

After the Click

As a result, companies are creating innovative solutions to these attribution problems that cut across various media ad platforms and provide a measurable path to the sweet spot of where online meets offline (view more in the video to the right). These new products include or are impacting mobile payments, social media, location data analysis (employing iBeacons or mapping apps to follow consumers from online to in-store visits), customer reward/loyalty programs, coupon offers, repeat business, online marketing, panel data, and call tracking, among others.

Tracking and measuring a mobile call’s online-to-offline conversion using attribution technology and analytics provides marketers with visibility that goes beyond the click for insights into real-world offline consumer engagement.

One type of effective local mobile attribution program will employ dynamic number insertion (DNI) to replace general phone numbers with unique, call-tracking ones on an advertiser’s website or landing page. That number is tied to how the consumer arrives at that site and tracks the call to the appropriate mobile campaign. Local numbers are key here, as the Nielsen study found that 73% of consumers want a local number as opposed to a toll-free one. A Telmetrics directory provider client implemented DNI and found that 37% of consumers that accessed websites from the directory’s ads were making subsequent calls, but the directory was losing credit. They were now able to gain attribution for those calls and provide a stronger proof of performance and ROI, which improved its retention numbers.

Call attribution tracking can be used for all digital programs, not just search: 30% of display ad secondary actions are calls. Other tangible performance metrics include calculating accurate call-through rates, call duration, call recordings, and mapping calls back to other types of advertising.

Using these new attribution tools can enable marketers to demonstrate more meaningful lead generation data and ROI, thereby helping advertising clients attain the ultimate goal: to convert consumers into customers.

TelmetricsFuture posts in the “After the Click” series will cover leveraging calls, understanding call quality and tracking consumer behavior — all important elements to crafting an effective digital ad campaign that drives attribution and conversion rates.