3 min read

Retailers Must Get Attribution Right: Q&A with Ray Kingman

Omni-channel shoppers can come to a purchase in a myriad of ways - digital store, a geo-targeted mobile text, physical window shopping, social media suggestions - but if merchants don't know just how Customer A landed in their digital or physical store, they are missing out on additional potential sales. That attribution aspect will be key for retailers through the holiday season.

Kristina Knight, BizReport Author: Probably one of the biggest targeting buzzwords we've heard in 2016 is attribution - why are so many so concerned with attribution?

Ray Kingman, Semcasting CEO: The simple answer is that advertisers are far enough along with their transition to digital marketing and they are now spending enough - that they are beginning to look for the proof points that their investment in everything from keyword buys, to web storefronts and audience targeting, are returning a proper level of return on what has been invested.

According to a Forbes Insights report on digital ad spend, "90 percent of companies spend at least 25 percent of their digital advertising budgets on specific targets, and 43 percent of companies spend more than half of their budgets reaching specific targets...84 percent said that they expect the spend (on audience targeting) to increase." As brand advertisers shift digital ad spend from the "catching position" of keywords and web optimization to a proactive "pitching" posture of audience targeting, they want validation that this increased investment is going to pay off. They can confirm this when the right people are being reached with advertisements and when those consumers purchase or transact down the line.

Kristina: What problems are merchants/brands having with attribution?

Ray: The main problem that the merchants/brands face is tying their advertising from the initial investment all the way through the path to purchase. Like many merchants and brands that advertise online, prospects go to their site, they may buy online from that merchant's web-store or they can visit a retail storefront from any number of resellers, online or offline. It is a 'connect-the-dots' problem and it requires a common key that is representative of an individual prospect before an ad is served all the way through, to after they buy.

Kristina: Is there a common key that will help with this attribution?

Ray: The closest thing to a common key in the current digital architectures has been an anonymous cookie. Unique user cookie coverage, the aging of, and the blocking of cookies has been a stumbling block as (more often than not) the results provide only a small sample of deterministic customers that can be tracked from audience onboarding through the multiple steps to the final purchase. As a result, these metrics have to be modeled and extrapolated from a probabilistic forecast to a validation estimate. These forecasts are rarely accurate unless they are based on huge campaigns with lots of impressions and confirmed results. For account-based marketing processes for B2B, or any campaign not involving national brands, the deterministic results that most advertisers want is out of reach.

Kristina: How can this problem be solved?

Ray: The problem is being solved today at the very high end of the retail market with dedicated attribution platform solutions from folks like Google and Marketshare. These are large dollar commitments that are spread over annual consulting and reporting engagements with custom tagging and setup across omni-channel campaigns.

In the mid-market the overhead of these consulting engagements aren't practical so these advertisers are attempting to adapt with universal IDs, or walled garden solutions, that have a common ID. The challenge with these solutions is they are single platform or campaign tactic specific. The other option is to adapt a Matchback strategy from campaign tactic to campaign tactic. An effective approach that is comparable to the higher-end solutions is based on IP-base campaign matching across platforms from campaign tactic to campaign tactic. i.e. audience IP targeting, to device IP, to home or business, to IP options - and then stitch the Matchback result together because they share a common ID in the form of the persistent IP address.

Kristina: When brands are unsure of proper attribution, what can they do?

Ray: My recommendation is that the brands, especially those in the mid-market and those delivering account-based marketing campaigns, try to incorporate a Matchback component into each and every campaign. Matchback based on an IP address, or a fixed ID from onboarding a target prospect list, is often a decent starting point for adding attribution without over-the-top investment. If the campaign is not overly complex, or multi-channel, the Matchback approach is a viable first step.

Kristina: Do you expect attribution to continue to be a focus point through 2017?

Ray: And beyond... Until attribution is a normal component of every campaign (and it is built into the standard ad serve and reporting workflow) the question is going to continue to be asked.

BizReport: http://www.bizreport.com/2016/11/expert-retailers-must-get-attribution-right.html

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