Crucial Attribution and Targeting Tools

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The Covid-19 pandemic has changed so many aspects of business – possibly for good – and marketing is no exception. With the dramatic pivot to working and learning from home, consumer behavior hardly resembles what it looked like in the before times. Yet many organizations are still marketing and measuring outcomes the same as they did pre-pandemic. 

Consumers have radically shifted their purchasing patterns to ecommerce and mobile platforms, while their media consumption has skyrocketed – just ask Netflix. According to IAB, consumers reported spending 14% more time online in March and April 2020 than they did during the same period in 2019. This means there are even more digital touchpoints during a buyer’s journey and more brand interactions that may contribute to a purchase.  

At the same time, marketers are fighting for every line of their budgets. With tighter overall advertising and marketing spend and increased scrutiny as to which channels are delivering ROI, marketing execs must present data that validates their strategies and justifies their budgets. In order to optimize spend, marketers need to properly attribute each interaction a user has with their brand across every channel.

This effectively means that the lines in the traditional funnel have blurred. Consumers may enter and pursue a non-linear route before making a purchase or moving on. The path from awareness to decision is no longer predictable in an omni-channel environment. A progression that works for one type of consumer may have no relevance for another. These changes necessite another look at attribution models.

This isn’t your father’s attribution model

Older models of attribution, such as first-touch or last-touch, are no longer sufficient for a complete picture of a buyer’s interaction with the brand. Instead, marketers have adopted multi-event attribution models, where all of a consumer’s interactions are tracked and weighted to determine which channels are most effective. 

But effective attribution has become even more challenging as third-party cookies are disappearing. How can marketers reliably track the buyer’s journey and attribute purchases to successful channels? Here are three essential components of a successful targeting and attribution program. 

Accurate consumer data

One of the biggest barriers to effective micro-targeting is a shortage of customer data. While marketers may have some demographic and purchase history information, it may not be enough to yield data-driven insights about buying patterns. In turn, this hinders the type of personalization that today’s consumers expect during brand interactions. 

To remedy this shortage, marketers often turn to providers of identity graphs. These vendors have painstakingly assembled detailed profiles of buyers based on unique identity markers, such as an email address, device ID, or phone number. When combined with first-party data, this enhanced data set enables marketers to reach buyers with more meaningful messages. 

Self-service ad-buying platform

Rather than engaging with a media firm, many small to mid-size brand marketers are choosing self-service platforms for their flexibility and affordability. For knowledgeable marketers, self-service ad buying provides total control over even the most minute details of their campaigns, such as frequency, target audience, impressions, and budget. 

While campaigns are in flight, the platform enables marketers to fine-tune them in response to real-time results, instead of having to wait for agency reports. Marketers can do more testing of messages, audiences, and outlets to optimize outcomes and minimize spend. 

Campaign analysis tools

Of course, the previous two components rely on the ability to analyze campaign results and determine which channels are most effective. This requires tools that connect the buyer’s digital engagement with a specified outcome and present the data to drive future spend decisions. 

As an example, marketers who use digital out-of-home and place-based ads can get information on consumers who viewed the ad so they can be retargeted later. Some attribution platforms make use of artificial intelligence to create predictive models that fill in the gaps where data may be missing. Others focus on specific channels, such as social media, public relations efforts, web site visits, form fills, and online chat interactions. 

The rapid shift in buyer behavior caused by the pandemic means that marketers must adjust their attribution modeling for more advanced online activities and must be able to make quick adjustments as the world rapidly changes. Data is crucial to these efforts. When used correctly, it reveals trends, avoids errors in decision making, and helps chart a way forward.

While the coronavirus pandemic is placing additional pressure on marketers to be smart and creative, leadership still expects return on investment for marketing activities. Accurate attribution holds the key to directing marketing spend to the best-performing channels, justifying those decisions and validating future marketing investment.

Ajay Gupta is CEO of Stirista.