Yuko Saito
Aug 31, 2015

Love's labours lost: The folly of last-click attribution

Multi-channel attribution is about making a play for meaningful customer relationships.

Love's labours lost: The folly of last-click attribution

“Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?” This Shakespearean question has been asked and perpetuated throughout the ages. It is therefore no surprise that we are inclined to indulge in this notion—the dramatic suddenness of love, driven by irrationality and loss of control.

The irony? Shakespeare actually dismisses this concept. His works on instantaneous love are but light farces on romantic confusion. We’re not coldly suggesting that cupid’s arrow never strikes. It’s just that, realistically, we expect a couple’s transition from acquaintances to soulmates to follow a more nuanced timeline.

For the same reason, marketers who subscribe to last-click attribution must learn to let it go. Last-click attribution—the idea that the final interaction a consumer had prior to purchase is the defining moment that triggered the conversion—is merely a simplified trope that helps to tell the story. In business, this is a tale of how budget invested in a particular ad is flippantly and wholly credited with the desired outcome. Given the range of marketing activities a company typically undertakes, should we not expect a more interesting and elaborate history?

Consider a consumer who, after clicking on a Zalora mobile display ad, ends up casually browsing products on Zalora’s mobile app. The ‘Off The Shoulder Fit & Flare Dress’ catches her initial fancy. Three days later, after failing to identify a better alternative at the nearby mall, she revisits the dress through an organic search on her desktop and completes the purchase.

For this individual, an investment in search-engine optimisation may have been a trigger, but it was only one channel in a series of relevant details. In fact, users who viewed display ads made 51 per cent more organic searches for the same product[1]. This reveals that search and display operate in tandem—a match made in marketing heaven, if you will. Could you imagine what might happen if Zalora’s marketing team decided to stop investing in mobile display ads?

Understanding the customer’s path to purchase

The customer’s path to purchase is becoming increasingly complex. A study by Google tracked the actions of 3,000 shoppers who pursued product information across multiple channels. Amazingly, all 3,000 shoppers took entirely unique paths to purchase[2]. Globally, more than 40 per cent of e-commerce transactions now also involve multiple devices—smartphones, desktops and tablets are used in a variety of combinations to find products and make purchasing decisions[3]. In response to this phenomenon, Shakespeare would likely agree that consumers each have different “exits and entrances.”

As such, today’s marketers must respond to consumer behaviour across multiple touchpoints, by searching more broadly for meaningful interactions. Multi-channel attribution analyses will enable a comprehensive and sequential view of events that have led to an end result, moving us away from the snapshots in time delivered by last-click attribution.

To start, web analytics platforms used to identify sources for online traffic and sales are already available. Similar analyses just need to be completed for mobile and social. For a single panel that evaluates the cumulative impact of different activities, businesses can either build their own in-house attribution platforms or purchase technology from a vendor who specialises in this area.

It is also important to note that multi-channel attribution does not provide a magic button that can be pushed once to obtain the perfect answer. Once it is in place, as a digital marketer, you’ll still be required to re-run the analysis and tweak your marketing programme regularly. Doing this will enable you to reapportion your marketing spend to focus on channels that have the greatest impact on sales.

Optimising your marketing mix through multi-channel attribution is indeed arduous, but essential. If this sounds complicated, so is the process of pursuing a meaningful and loving relationship. For your future ad investments and engagement efforts to truly pay off, there is no better time than now for you to opt for a deeper and more complete understanding of your customers. And, as Shakespeare might add, “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

Yuko Saito is managing director at Criteo Southeast Asia

[1] Nielsen. Médiamétrie NetRatings.

[2] Google. ZMOT Ways to Win Shoppers at the Zero Moment of Truth Handbook.

[3] Criteo. Q2 State of Mobile Commerce Report.


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