Attribution Management: Credit Crisis
One Size Doesn't Fit All
The only way to get at this type of information is by doing holdout tests, according to industry experts. A holdout test is when a retailer takes a segment of its customers, doesn't mail them a catalog and watches the results. "By not mailing a catalog or an email campaign, you truly learn whether these vehicles cause orders to happen," says Kevin Hillstrom, president at database marketing consultancy MineThatData. However, "most marketers aren't willing to do holdout tests" for fear of losing revenue, he continues.
Testing needs to be ongoing, too. "Testing for a month usually doesn't uncover what you're looking for," says Bessin. Any initial testing should last through one selling season, and follow-up testing has to be done because both marketing strategies and customer preferences change.
Because of the perceived complexity of attribution management, many retailers are hoping someone will come up with a one-size-fits-all formula for questions such as "How big a role does my catalog play in website sales?" This isn't likely to happen. "Not only does the degree of channel interaction vary widely for every different advertiser, but the type of interaction varies tremendously as well," explains Michie, about why coming up with one overarching formula to answer these questions isn't possible. "Every company is different, and you really have to be careful about applying generalities across different businesses," agrees Bessin.
Edelman agrees that retailers have to continually test their assumptions when it comes to allocating orders correctly. He's currently planning some follow-up tests to see how factors such as The Wine Enthusiast's new coupon website and social media activities are impacting where the brand's orders are coming from.
"The landscape is always changing, and we have to adapt," says Edelman. But, "as there are more marketing channels becoming available, it becomes that much more imperative to have accurate attribution data," he continues, "in order to know how your marketing activity is changing customer behavior."