By Matt Pigott - August 31st, 2016

Read this, the last in our three-part 'marketing attribution’ series

Plus: how Hilton is using marketing attribution to improve its customer engagements and beef up ROI

What was once, for brands and their customers, a more-or-less linear decision-making process has, due to the proliferation of platforms and the ever-growing number of physical devices, become anything but. The once straight road from the first touch to conversion has evolved into a huge spaghetti junction with countless possibilities.

Engaging the customer – as easy as A, B, C. Or is it?

The straight connection is dead. Now it’s device to device, platform to platform, node to node. Despite this, customers still want to get from point A to Z, and it is the job of brands to facilitate and streamline that journey to ensure that it feels linear. Difficult. And that’s only half the job. Drawing off and aggregating key metrics along the way, and using them to increase the likelihood of repeat business, is now a vital part of the process for brands. A to Z isn’t achieved in a single, mighty bound. B through X are the chain-value stepping stones that can no longer be ignored.

To gain a truly competitive edge. B through X mark the incremental points that enable increased optimization of personalized service provisions that will ultimately increase the level of conversions. Which means that customers must be engaged throughout. From first ‘encounter click’ (point A) to final ‘decision click’ (point Z), they must be fully tuned into the entire brand proposition.

First click? Last click?

If the key aim for brands is to engage individuals in meaningful ways, knowing what their customers'' preferences and nuanced behaviors are over time, and how and when they choose to engage, is mission critical. First click and last click attribution were once powerful ways of understanding what consumers were up to. Now, to call them crude methods of measurement, is an understatement. Because first and last click fail to account for the meat in the middle of the journey. First and last click are little more than the snout and tail of a rolling hog roast…the least edible bits of any marketing feast.

Caught in the middle - where the data matters most

What goes on between first and last click is essential: the lingering thoughts on day 35 of a long-considered purchase, the hours of assessments of sizes, measurements, price points and quality. The endless comparisons made on a like-for-like basis with other similar products or services. First click and last click don’t take account of these complexities of human thought, or the nuanced interactions fundamental to an eventual sale or conversion. They also don’t take into account the fact that leading brands – the ones out front – need much more information if they are to flesh out the relationships they have with their customers, and make them more relevant. Which is why some brands are taking marketing attribution more seriously than ever…

Hilton uses attribution to assess and improve

Hilton Worldwide has invested in marketing attribution. The global hotel brand has three-quarters-of-a-million rooms in close to a hundred countries. Needless to say, there’s a lot of marketing and data acquisition going on around the clock. Making sense of it was thought to be key to improving customer journeys and increasing conversions and ROI. The goal to drive growth and improve customer interactions was achieved by working with MarketShare, which helped them to build their analytics framework from the ground up.

Ditching last click attribution was one of the first things done to weight, more fairly, gathered data. Unhappy with patting only the last runner in the brand effort relay on the back, analytics were implemented to establish a  better balance between long-term and short-term value investments. Because brand building and ROI are separate metrics, the first being more sensate, the second represented in hard numeric terms, using analytics to see how the two work together has provided more value than simply looking at the simplistic measure of the final click that precedes a sale. Through the integration of various data sources, both online and offline, it was possible to build a more detailed overview that revealed what was working in the marketing mix, and what needed improving.

Better tracking equals better personalization

The brands that do develop a deeper understanding of their customers, in the singular and aggregate sense, also develop a powerful competitive edge. Knowing, through attribution what the individual and broad-based responses are to products, promotions, new service offerings, campaigns, loyalty card schemes, new apps etc allows for more detailed and accurate brand building, and provides real material value. With digital tracking through cookies, hashing and intelligent algorithms making sense of what people are up to on their customer journeys, irrespective of how long those journeys are, is the very thing that helps marketers inch their way closer and closer toward the single customer view, allowing them to deliver an ever-improving level of personalization.

Attribution in the limelight

Attribution has taken a while to work it’s way up the CMO’s list of priorities, not least of all because it’s hardly sexy front-end stuff. But, in conjunction with intelligent software, it is the power under the hood, and more brands are recognizing its value. Languishing at the bottom of the list of priorities a couple of years ago, like a shark swimming slow and deep before powering to a breach, it now sits at the top, and has become a focal point.

Double the numbers using marketing attribution this year

From AdRoll comes the statistic that, compared with last year, double the number of marketing professionals are using marketing attribution this year. Even still, that only accounts for 40 percent of the total. The shift hints that more and more brands are now aware that attribution weighted across touch points is becoming more important, and is likely to be business critical when it comes to retaining customers and being more competitive, moving into 2017. 

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