Media Attribution: Matchbacks: The Next Generation
When driving sales in multiple venues, understanding your customers’ path to purchase gives you the insight to develop relevant messaging, provide each customer with the right offer and lets you know where to spend those marketing dollars.
We’re in a time of limited marketing budgets and careful accountability; you want to be confident about what works. Advanced media attribution has become the checks-and-balances element of multichannel marketing strategies. But accurately attributing a sale to the proper marketing activity is an art as much as a science.
How can retailers, catalogers and online marketers conquer this marketing and sales challenge? Not only are consumers hit with promotions across multiple mediums, but many retailers also offer multiple purchasing avenues — from online to catalogs to brick-and-mortar stores.
Media attribution is the process of allocating all of the customer’s media touchpoints to a transaction. Which catalog drove the order? Which online campaign enticed the customer to come into your store at the mall? Likely, it was a mix. And marketers need a way to correctly credit the different types of media that had the potential to drive that interaction — whether it’s an e-mail, catalog, social network, affiliate or search engine.
For years, of course, we’ve called that the “matchback.” And retailers did simply that: matched orders back to the catalog mail file via mailing address or source code. Today’s media attribution expands that process. Retailers are looking at all their transactions across all their media channels. Then, within certain business rules, they determine which touchpoints played a part in the sales.
While landing pages and Web analytics help you understand the relationship between, say, your latest e-mail campaign and online demand, backtracking a store purchase to a marketing effort is trickier. To figure out what lures a customer into a store, merchants need a reason for customers to share personally identifiable information. Privacy is a concern, so asking your customers for personal information while they’re standing in the checkout line might not be a good idea.
One solution is to engage customers through a loyalty program, a customer identification tool allowing you to track transactions on an ongoing basis. Retail loyalty programs work like doggy treats; they reward desired behavior. Their greatest value for retailers, though, is the ability to identify individual customers. By measuring, understanding and predicting individual behavior, retailers can be more targeted. They can provide the right offer for each person while creating more relevant messaging.
The point is to influence customer behavior, not just report it. Better understanding of cause and effect provides sophisticated marketers with much deeper insight that leads to dramatically more successful marketing and business strategies.
A Secret Formula?
In today’s marketplace, the path to purchase isn’t direct, and the consumer doesn’t necessarily leave footprints. With simultaneous campaigns across media channels on one side of the equation and multiple sales channels on the other, successful media attribution needs to include an intelligent assessment of which touchpoints have the strongest effect in generating the sale.
But do you attribute a transaction to the first touchpoint, the last or equally across all of them? Marketers are on a quest to find that magic formula for calculating the value of each media touchpoint. A catalog, for instance, has a long order curve. So if a customer who transacts with you received a catalog in the past 30 to 45 days, your catalog gets credit for playing a part in that transaction.
E-mail, on the other hand, has a short order curve, typically less than a couple weeks. If the order is placed within this time frame, your e-mail campaign gets a commendation as well. How compelling would it be to know, too, whether that customer is registered as a friend on your corporate Facebook page or follows you on Twitter? Very few retailers actually aggregate all that information at the customer or transactional level.
While marketers have become sophisticated at collecting data, connecting those dots is the new challenge. Marketers ultimately want to get more out of media attribution than static statistics. They want and need to understand the relationships between marketing channels and retail transactions to gain the insight to optimize contact strategies. Always knowing exactly which media played a part is an elusive goal.
Nevertheless, it’s important to at least understand the various touchpoints that occurred within an applicable time frame so you can better allocate your marketing dollars and maximize your investment in all selling channels. You’ll seldom have any type of transaction attributable to just one media. Whatever the exact equation is to calculate the value of each media touchpoint, having the insight is invaluable to marketers. Without it, you overinvest in one channel and underinvest in another.
You don’t want to overinvest in direct mail to a segment of customers who are very engaged online, for example. These customers might rely on blogs or Facebook or affiliate partnerships to transact with a retailer. Unless you have that insight, you can’t develop an appropriate marketing strategy; you can’t segment your customer file appropriately and drive a better return on every marketing dollar.
Media attribution is just another step toward understanding how customers want to engage with retailers, and what’s the optimal mix of media to generate that engagement at the most effective cost. There’s a lot of media to measure. But don’t just collect the data; integrate it. Even the latest technologies can’t attribute every transaction to all the relevant media touchpoints.
It’s about harvesting insights to create the business rules that lead to understanding the path to purchase. Yes, you need sophisticated technology to integrate all your data into one source and get a full view of the responsiveness of each customer across various media channels. But it’s you who’ll eventually leverage that data and make better marketing decisions. Sophisticated marketers understand that media attribution is a critical business strategy, not a technical detail. ROI
Michael Caccavale is co-founder and CEO of interactive marketing firm Pluris (firstname.lastname@example.org).