Order Attribution: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
ROI: Is thinking about the future part of the allocating equation for you or is it more present tense?
BB: We think at least one year out, but really we try to think three years out. The big question you try to ask yourself is given where we are now, are there likely to be major shifts in where we're going to spend our money? For example, the role of mobile. Should we allocate more money into mobile or do we feel that it won't grow from where it is now? There are a lot of companies asking themselves that question. The same goes with social. There are a few buzz topics that come along and you have to sit there and say if mobile gets big or if social gets big, where am I going to reallocate those dollars? You have to pay attention to what's coming down the pike.
KDT: We do have to pay attention, and yes we have to devote dollars to social and mobile, but we don't even know what's next. We all know there will be another Pinterest or Twitter, something that we'll have to do, and we'll have to be nimble and flexible enough to make that happen. We're constantly trying to figure out a plan and react to the marketplace.
HW: I agree you have to be nimble and quick. Past results don't always equate to future performance because you don't know what the trends are going to be. You have to keep your pulse on the marketplace and really be aware of what the trends are going to be. You have to be ready for anything.
BB: One thing I've noticed though is if you go back and look at where our marketing dollars have been spent over the last five years, there haven't been major shifts. It hasn't changed tremendously. It's always interesting because it's exciting to see the new categories, but as to where dollars get spent, it's still email, search, catalogs — all of your traditional elements.
KDT: I think where our dollars are being spent hasn't changed, but the amount of time, resources and human energy have been distributed differently over the years. We spend more energy on 3 percent of the budget. We spend more time on brainstorming, for example, than we do on the next radio spots. So even though the dollars haven't changed, the human resources and time have changed.
ROI: What are your biggest challenges around attribution?
HW: Making sure we stay consistent through all of the touchpoints. Throughout the process we want to make sure our messaging is clear and that we're not losing our message within whichever marketing channel we're in. We try to make sure, whether it be through social, retargeting or email, that our message stays within the realm.
KDT: It's a constant challenge to figure out the creative and make sure the message is consistent, clear and direct. It's the coordination of it. I have to ask myself, "is my brick-and-mortar customer really so different from my online customer?" And yes, they are that different. The online customer doesn't necessarily want the same experience as the brick-and-mortar customer does, so I have different messages. One might say "Come on in and browse for an hour," and another one might say "We can get your books in and checked out in a matter of seconds." So it's a balancing act — which can be tough.
BB: What's really hard is figuring out the interaction effects between touchpoints. If we try to reach a customer through email or catalog and they find us through search, we wonder if the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It's a little bit like a soup. You have all of your different ingredients, but it's how they interact with each other that makes the soup taste good. If you take one of the ingredients out, all of the sudden the soup tastes bad.
ROI: What are your biggest successes around attribution management? For example, were you able to improve a marketing program that wasn't working as a result of attribution?
KDT: After analyzing a direct mail campaign we launched in March that tied in with our brick-and-mortar stores and email campaigns, sales increased 20 percent. We looked at when the direct mail campaign fell, tied it in more with our "Spring Break" campaigns, and moved the Wednesday and Thursday percentages around. We were very strategic about it and ended up having a very good March. I think you may want to go with your gut, but you need to look at the analytics. By tweaking and changing just a few things, you can have a really big impact.
HW: After doing some analysis, we recently started leveraging all of our customers in our loyalty program. We sent out a March Madness campaign, for example, and leveraged that sale by providing double bonus points or a free gift to our loyal customers. We started seeing lots more increments of revenue and higher average order values as a result. Basically, we've decided to be more aggressive on the points distribution, giving customers more opportunities to come in and buy.