Going Beyond the Last Click

Maybe banner ads aren’t so bad after all.

There’s a growing realization in the digital media industry that it has an attribution problem. The problem is basically that the credit for a sale or conversion event tends, in most models, to go to the last ads seen, never mind all the other ads that a consumer has seen before getting to that end point.

Studies are bearing this out. Last-click models tend to give more weight to paid search, according to a recent study of campaigns across 1,000 websites by 500 advertisers conducted by Microsoft’s Atlas Institute. Display is highly undervalued, states the report, helping to creating strategies that allocate ad spend to channels that might not optimize yield to its full potential. According to a retail case study by Tagman, a multi-channel attribution technology company, paid search is overvalued by 2.5 times the conversions that it generates, with social media receiving eight times less credit than it should when credited as assisting in a conversion.

Last-click analysis, however, is all that many marketing strategists have had to work with traditionally. Uncovering the path from interest to conversion is what advertising is all about, but the blunt instruments used to uncover the data that forms this path tend to be too broad to acknowledge and successfully integrate into analysis key contributors to click-conversion.
Elements such as organic search, display and social media often get lost in the shuffle of evaluation without multi-channel attribution analysis, which looks at multiple visits to sites and traffic sources, regardless of conversion status. Some companies, such as Google, have begun to at least test multi-channel attribution. Google’s multichannel funnels feature, which is in limited beta for certified Google Analytics consultants, will take into account assisted conversions, which examines channels that led consumers towards, but not to conversion, and top conversion paths, which examines what are the most frequent pathways to conversion from tagged campaigns.
Raising ROI, may be a simple as reduplicating click-per-action commissions by associating proper attributions to the proper channels. Virgin Atlantic, in another recent study by Tagman, was able to achieve a ROI of 41: 1 merely through ending the duplication of CPA commissions.
Tagman’s recommended methodology of creating a more accurate ROI framework is to first determine the number of sales in which a channel appeared in the path to conversion regardless of whether or not it resulted in a sale, then incorporate its contribution into standard last click analysis. In addition, calculating the amount of sales in which a channel appears in a path to conversion and then dividing it by the total number of events in that path will allows for the crediting of all contributing events in the sales funnel. This permits a more accurate portrait of the conversion path, while keeping analysis focused on tangible indicators of engagement that produce actionable insights.
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