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The time has come for a revolution in attribution. The consumer journey is far from linear, but rather involves a sequence of media impressions in which conversions very rarely occur on the first impression.  Yet the last click/last view attribution model to digital marketing – which doesn’t account for this shift in consumer behavior and still credits the ad that the consumer saw right before making a purchase – is quite prevalent in the industry even though there are more sophisticated and accurate attribution solutions available.

More effective methods provide tremendous benefits to marketers, enabling them to gain greater visibility into the consumer journey, better positioning them to strategize and credit each media partner that is influential along the path to purchase. Such models should include high-funnel tactics designed to drive brand awareness and consideration, as well as strategies focused on the bottom of the funnel, such as remarketing.

Increased pathway visibility 

Advanced attribution models allow marketers to accurately define the consumer journey and understand the steps along the path to final purchase, particularly if the media buys are disparate, as they often are.

Let’s take a look at a typical acquisition strategy:

  • Brand A runs audience-targeted display ads across a network as a prospecting strategy.
  • A consumer clicks through one of the ads to Brand A’s site, shops briefly, but does not complete a purchase.
  • Brand A then remarkets to that consumer, purchasing media via RTB across an ad network. The consumer sees the ad several times over the course of the next three days.
  • During the remarketing campaign, the consumer coincidentally interacts with a premium rich media ad Brand A has purchased directly on a publisher site.
  • Finally, ready to buy, perhaps days later, the consumer searches for Brand A’s product on Google, clicks a paid search listing, and completes the purchase.

Using last click/last view attribution, only Google will receive credit for the purchase in spite of the activities higher up the funnel that clearly contributed to the conversion.

Through pathway analysis reporting, marketers are able to see and understand which media strategies and partners serve impressions to the same consumer, working together to drive them along the path to purchase. Furthermore, marketers can also determine which strategies or partners are able to find incrementally unique convertors, rather than those simply fighting for the same users.

Quantification of individual touch points 

Further strengthening pathway analysis is the ability to quantify the fractional credit that each touch point deserves by considering their impact on the final purchase.  With a sophisticated attribution solution, marketers can define the value of touch points – whether they increased brand awareness, engagement, or led directly to a sale.

The biggest benefit from an attribution solution, however, can be gained when it provides aclosed-loop approach, using data gained from the purchase path for real-time decision making and media buying. An advanced attribution model can determine the value of a particular impression to a brand based on its role in the conversion path.  The media-buying technology then ingests this data and automatically applies it to future bidding decisions, so rather than treating each impression as having led to zero conversions, or one full conversion, each impression in the user path will reveal its true market value.

Replenishing the consumer pool

Remarketing campaigns deliver high conversion rates and, as a result, are often credited with having the most impact on the final conversion. The remarketing pool, however, needs to be continually replenished to allow remarketing methods to perform efficiently. Advanced attribution models allow marketers to identify strategies that introduce new, incremental consumers into the top of the sales funnel, rather than simply remarketing to the same consumer group over and over.

By leveraging the power of newer attribution models, marketers can identify both the gaps and the opportunities in their campaigns, and use real data to optimize their marketing at every stage of the consumer journey. This creates budget efficiency and greater marketer ROI, as spend can be allocated to strategies that make a quantifiable contribution to final conversions.  It’s time to give credit where credit is due.


By Mike Monaco, VP of Programmatic Strategy & Optimization, MediaMath