Panel of Retailers Talk Attribution at eTail
While taking steps to become an omnichannel brand is all the rage these days in the retail industry, the journey isn't without its challenges. Specifically, for brands selling and marketing to consumers in multiple channels simultaneously, attributing orders to the marketing channel responsible for generating a purchase is a problem that's been vexing retailers for years.
In a session at this week's eTail East conference in Philadelphia, a panel of retailers (and one vendor) discussed how their companies handle the troublesome task of order attribution. Will Ferguson, vice president of online marketing at 1-800-Flowers.com; Dan Malone, senior director of strategy and analytics at Vistaprint; Ryan Bonifacino, vice president of digital strategy at Alex and Ani; Victor Castro, director of e-commerce at Vermont Teddy Bear; and Ken Barbieri, vice president of business development at Neustar AdAdvisor, offered their thoughts on how brands can better attribute purchases to the appropriate marketing channel, thus enabling them to optimize their marketing budget.
Many in the audience (and some of the panelists) said they use a last-click model for attribution — i.e., only crediting the last click or touchpoint for a sale — but acknowledged this isn't a perfect solution. It frequently ignores the impact that top-of-the-funnel marketing touchpoints (e.g., display, email, social media, etc.) have on conversion.
Vistaprint uses controlled testing, then makes assumptions based on the results of those tests as multipliers to guide its marketing strategy, said Dan Malone. For example, controlled testing of display ads was a huge win for Vistaprint. "We weren't spending in the channel, tested it and learned that display was generating sales," Malone said. "We now budget more than $1 million to the channel."
At 1-800-Flowers.com, the marketing team uses three methods for attribution: last click/last view; first click/first view (which is effective for evaluating the effectiveness of display ads, noted Will Ferguson); and a regression model on all marketing touchpoints.
Vermont Teddy Bear (VTB) mostly uses last-touch attribution, said Victor Castro, but it does have an unorthodox strategy — some might call it crazy — for offline media attribution (the company invests heavily in TV and radio advertising). When customers go to check out on VTB's website, they're required to fill out a text field on how they heard of the company. They can't complete their purchase until they do so. "It may go against best practice, but we get 100 percent participation," Castro said jokingly. He reasons that while he may lose some potential orders, that money is more than made up for in the customer feedback he's getting, which enables him to optimize future marketing spend.
Alex and Ani is trying to leverage social sign-in data to help it track customers and do a better job with order attribution, as well as personalize future offers to customers and prospects, said Ryan Bonifacino. For example, if the company learns from Facebook that you're a Boston Red Sox fan, it's going to promote a Boston Red Sox bangle to you the next time you engage with the brand. And on the flip side, if it knows that you've already purchased that product from Alex and Ani, it's going to repress it in future promotions.
Will Ferguson of 1-800-Flowers.com echoed Bonifacino's point, saying that the floral brand has found success tracking customers who are logged into Google (e.g., Gmail or Google+). And Victor Castro said Vermont Teddy Bear tries to entice customers to interact with the brand via social media; once they do, the retailer is more easily able to track their behavior.