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Marketing Wiki: Tab Distraction

August 8, 2017 — by Laura Carrier

Quick: How many tabs do you have open on your browser right now? OK, you can stop counting. It’s a lot, right? So how did this happen? If you’re on the web all day, it’s not surprising that you keep opening new tabs. Often when you click on a link, it launches another tab. It’s not unusual to have a dozen or more tabs open at one time. While this probably ranks low on the list of modern white-collar workplace annoyances (well below, say, dodgy Wi-Fi or slow trail mix refills), it rises to the level of minor annoyance for marketers because it makes attribution more difficult.

  • What is tab distraction?

Let’s say you’re in Chrome and have a bunch of tabs open. One is open to J. Crew’s website because you’re about to buy a short-sleeve shirt in Japanese indigo chambray. But the other tabs are markers of various ways you’ve wasted the day so far, including Reddit, TMZ and Facebook. So let’s say right before you decide to checkout at J.Crew, you go to Facebook, which has a J. Crew retargeting ad waiting for you (as would Reddit, TMZ and many of your other open tabs). Then you go back to continue completing your purchase of that short-sleeve shirt in Japanese indigo chambray on J. Crew. Even though it didn’t help make the sale in this case, Facebook will get credit for this sale on last-touch attribution models.

  • Why is this a big deal?

Last-touch attribution may be an inaccurate way of giving marketing credit for purchases or other desired actions (some compare it to making the team that scores last the winner of a basketball game), but it’s still standard practice for many companies. Tab distraction adds to the issue of giving too much credit to the last ad seen before conversion which in this common example didn’t even help make the sale and under-credits all of the marketing that actually did influence the customer’s behavior. That attribution not only impacts measurement of the efficacy of the set of marketing that led to this conversion, but also affects future spending because the marketer thinks “Facebook led to this sale, so I’ll spend my money there.”

  • What can be done?

An industry shift towards multi-touch attribution helps mitigate the impact of this issue, and is one of the most significant steps that marketers can take to ensure that they are understanding the effect their marketing is having on their customers’ behaviors. Consumers’ continuing exodus to mobile is also making tab distraction less of an issue.

Laura Carrier

Laura Carrier is VP of vertical strategy – measurement at MediaMath. She is a retail guru with 10+ years of industry experience. Laura’s diverse retail experience spans into merchandising, omnichannel strategy, CRM, and marketing. Before joining MediaMath, she was most recently at Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s, and has also worked with diverse retailers of all sizes in mass, mid-tier, luxury and drug. At MediaMath, Laura provides new insights and solutions to meet clients needs while focusing on measurement within the marketing space.