Marketing attribution 101

Looking for the perfect solution to measure attribution? Andy Houston, Group Operations Director shares his views on the importance, challenge and future of attribution.

Accurate attribution has been the holy grail for marketeers. Understanding the value of marketing spend and the impact of allocating it to activity to generate a positive return on investment (ROI) is key for any successful business looking to raise awareness, acquire customers and grow customer lifetime value.

The importance of good attribution

Not every marketing investment bears immediate results. With a vast array of places available to spend money, a marketer wants to ensure that they can maximise their returns with the spend that they have available, ensuring that their campaigns are finding the right customers to bring the cost benefit into the positive across their marketing mix.

Attribution systems help marketers make informed decisions about the channels that might be working for their business across every single element of different customer engagements.

Why sources of clicks don’t describe the full picture

Many attribution systems in our ecosystem today are only focused towards clicks, and last click attribution. This does not give a full picture of brand engagements, especially when many engagements might not result in a complete direct action, such as a click immediately.

The obsession with clicks has meant that programmatic display and its benefits are not fully represented in these reports, so for many the opportunity here is in many cases misunderstood.

Most marketers are beginning to understand that maybe, performance here is not what it seems. Drill into these two numbers and Google Analytics and what might you see:

85% of traffic pegged under ‘google’ in Google Analytics is a result of other hard work doing other marketing activities in what we can term as a ‘halo effect’, performance and click traffic that is not as a result of Alphabets tools but of other activity.

The challenges for attribution tracking technology

Attribution in marketing is by no means a perfect science. The world is not fully digitised, so whilst any digital channel could be marked with an engagement tracker, assumptions need to be taken for non-digital activity.

Understanding cause and effect is key in any type of marketing campaign, and with increased digitisation it has become easier to get a better understanding of what drives customer lifetime value across the lifecycle.

Even for offline measurement, by understanding the locations of any activity, one can attribute this to uplifts in conversions across a brand’s estate and begin to understand what the right marketing mix might be.

In any case, it is important to not become wholly reliant on a single source of reconciliation to get to an answer of what the right engagements to focus due to a number of factors.

Focus on attribution across lifecycle engagements

In any business, you must prospect new customers, convert them and grow their lifetime value. At any one of these stages a customer might engage but not necessarily ‘click’ with your brand – subconscious action is as important as conscious action in building a business, and these subconscious actions will all add to the halo effect on conscious engagements at a later stage.

True attribution modelling and understanding the value of marketing spend needs to try and include all these engagements regardless of whether it is a click or not. Engagements like a view and dwell should not be ignored.

Google Analytics proves that customers are searching for your brand and also coming directly to your site, so understanding where and how they decided to do that is an important factor when it comes to deciding where to put the next budget.

Lifecycle marketing is all about engaging the customer with the right message, at the right time, in the right place, with the right context across the lifecycle. It is a well-known fact that the most expensive part of a lifecycle engagement with a customer is getting them to engage with you for the first time.

Once they engage and then visit the site, you can then embark on a cyclical process of engagement to conversion and re-engagement to visit again, driving customer lifetime value and loyalty.

Four things to monitor and measure for accurate attribution

  1. Monitor a placement. And how much it costs
  2. Monitor the interactions a potential customer might have with this placement
  3. Reconciling a conversion results with the placement that drove the conversion result
  4. Defining the value of an interaction and contribution of the placement to the overall conversion

Not every marketing investment bears immediate results. What’s important for marketers is to ensure that their campaigns are finding the right customer, maximising their returns with the spends.

Want to find out how you can achieve accurate attribution? Read the full whitepaper on Hybrid Attribution.

About the author

Andy Houstoun has over 20 years of experience in delivering successful digital propositions, most recently as CCO of Larsson & Jennings, the Swiss Made Watch brand.

At Venda, the world’s largest on-demand e-Commerce provider which was bought by Oracle in 2016, he launched and optimised online propositions for clients including Jimmy Choo, TK Maxx and Urban Outfitters. Prior to this he was part of the founding team of

As Group Operations Director at Crimtan Andy oversees the product go-to market strategy with a core objective to deliver value and retention across our client base.