Attribution University

Need education around marketing attribution? We have you covered.

Written by Phillip Alexeev
on March 31, 2021

  • Marketing attribution helps brands know which of their efforts is paying off, but untangling multiple channels of data can very quickly become very complicated.
  • Smart marketers can get ahead of inevitable questions by being strategic about how they organize, track and judge the success of campaigns before they launch.
  • Look beyond the lift: The impact of a single ad can show up in multiple short, medium, and long-term indicators. Knowing what to look for will help you understand how an ad contributes to the path to conversion.

No matter the size of the brand, sophisticated marketers want to know that their efforts are having a positive impact on conversions and sales.

When you’re just getting started with a few ads on Google or Facebook, the data you need is served up to you in neat reports that show click-through rates, conversion rates, and some basic attribution. 

But once you add a third, fourth, or even 20th channel to your marketing mix, measurement and attribution get complicated — fast.

How many sales did we get from that television ad? Should we test a campaign on Hulu? Are any of these organic hits the result of that billboard we put up? How much should we invest in an influencer campaign?

We built Rockerbox to help brands answer these questions by doing two things: identifying all the marketing touchpoints that a customer encounters on the path to conversion, and understanding which of those touchpoints are actually contributing to the sale.

I recently had the opportunity to talk about some of these questions and answers on the eCommerce Fastlane podcast, where I discussed best practices for marketing attribution as it applies to online shops, as well as other industries.

Here are a few takeaways from our conversation:

Start smart: Think strategically to avoid common pitfalls

Rockerbox works with brands of all shapes and sizes, including new organizations looking to get ahead of the complexities of attribution and incrementality and those that are already marketing in dozens of channels and looking to us to better understand their impact.

But whether you’re just starting out or are considering adding a new channel, there are a few best practices that will ensure your data is as clear and actionable as possible:

  • Keep marketing strategies neatly organized into categories. Whether you’re running ads aimed at prospecting, retargeting, or brand awareness, make sure that you know which is which. This allows you to compare the performance of your efforts apples-to-apples, even across different channels.
  • Know how to assess success before launch. It’s easier than ever to test the waters of a new channel with a small investment, thanks to self-service platforms like the one Hulu announced in 2020. But the trial-and-error method will only be effective when you can judge whether the test worked. 

One of the biggest mistakes we see brands make is adjusting their criteria to make test campaigns look successful, whether or not they met the original goal. Justifying past actions is an aspect of human nature that can get in the way of good marketing decisions.

  • Gather first-party data whenever possible. With the introduction of Apple’s iOS 14 and other developments that are changing the way brands can track and retarget ads, capturing data directly from the consumer is more important than ever. Collecting phone numbers or email addresses also gives you the opportunity to re-engage a prospect at a lower cost.
  • Reach for the low-hanging fruit when it comes to tracking. Rockerbox employs a number of sophisticated models and complex probability methodologies to measure multi-channel marketing attribution, but there are plenty of simpler tracking mechanisms that are accessible to in-house teams and brands that are just starting out.

Vanity URLs, strategic promo codes, and post-purchase surveys all offer valuable insight into the path to purchase. When you branch out into channels that are harder to trace, it’s a good time to find a partner like Rockerbox who can help with the modeling.

The ripple effect of ad impact — what to look for

Television ads, whether they’re placed in traditional linear TV or some of the more customized OTT channels, are notoriously difficult to track. 

Let’s take a 30-second Super Bowl ad as an example. Sports fans and marketers alike know that running an ad spot during the big game is a big investment, but how does a brand even begin to understand the return on an ad spend like this?

One way to look at the wave of website visits and sales that follow a big, splashy ad is to consider the ripple effect in three parts — the short-, medium-, and long-term impacts.

Short-term impacts

In addition to measuring the immediate lift in traffic to your website following the ad spot, consider whether the site visitors are new or returning. Look at any corresponding lift in conversions or conversion rate.

Medium-term impacts

Has the ad created a halo effect around your brand? To figure this out, look for changes in other channels following the ad spot. Look for changes in retargeting efficiency, CPM, and long-term conversion rates. If you captured first-party data from the initial wave of visitors, consider how you’ve been able to re-engage those people.

Long-term impacts

These results show up in the path to conversion, which could become shorter following an effective ad. Also, note whether post-exposure customers are coming back for repeat purchases at a different rate or whether your LTV metrics may have changed.

At Rockerbox, our platform is built to ingest and centralize post-launch data, then crunch all of these metrics to discover the effectiveness of an ad and evaluate how it contributed to customer conversions. 

Pay to play: Understanding the value of sponsorships

As branded content becomes a more common channel to reach like-minded consumers, the attribution puzzle gets even more complex. How is a marketer to know, for example, whether a lift in organic traffic is due to recent investment in an influencer campaign or just some great SEO?

Podcast sponsorships and influencer partnerships present unique challenges when it comes to measurement. Unlike Facebook, Google, and many third-party ad platforms, podcasters don’t have a dedicated API to funnel data into an easy-to-read dashboard and attribution tools on platforms like Shopify are less sophisticated than required to analyze the volume of data from a scaled marketing mix.

And although tracking mechanisms like promo codes and post-purchase surveys can begin to shed some light on campaign impact, reattributing those conversions based on point-of-purchases data can be tedious.

This is where our newest Rockerbox sponsorship attribution feature comes into play. The platform ingests data from multiple attribution providers and adjusts it based on our modeling, then provides a holistic view of the campaign by centralizing all of the costs related to sponsorship, accounting for the cost of promotional discounts as well as ad spend or payments made to the influencer.

In the world of multi-channel marketing, attribution and measurement will continue to be hot topics (and critical for good marketing). Whether your brand chooses to tackle these challenges in-house or work with a partner like Rockerbox, strategic thinking and campaign planning are key to transforming data into valuable insights for the future.

Check out the full conversation over on eCommerce Fastlane! 

Next steps: Here are some pro tips for attributing unattributable conversions

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