Home Brand Aware Setting Up For Success Amid The Unspoken Challenges of Multitouch Attribution

Setting Up For Success Amid The Unspoken Challenges of Multitouch Attribution


Brand Aware” explores the data-driven digital ad ecosystem from the marketer’s point of view.

Today’s column is written by Amy Loesch, vice president of digital marketing at RetailMeNot.

Multitouch attribution can be intimidating for some marketers. Where does one start and how can brands get executive buy-in?

More than half (57%) of marketers surveyed in 2017 said figuring out cross-channel measurement and attribution would occupy their time, and about four in 10 retailers said they planned to implement cross-channel attribution. However, setting up a business for success with multitouch attribution (MTA) requires that marketing and data teams first spend much of their energy laying the data groundwork.

There’s a reason so many marketers and retailers are making MTA a priority: Consumer shopping journeys are increasingly complex, and it is incredibly important to understand all the touch points that lead customers to interact with brands.

Media campaigns are less siloed, and advertising platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and others are introducing new advertising types that blend brand creative with direct-response calls to action. Understanding each campaign’s impact across the funnel improves the accuracy of media planning and budget allocation. Traditional metrics, such as click-through rate, are poor indicators of performance as marketers discover there is virtually no correlation between clicks and incremental sales.

So why, despite the value of multitouch attribution, are companies not using it? When it comes to choosing a multitouch attribution model, there’s no clear-cut path for getting your brand set up for success. Here are four things we found helpful to consider before implementing an MTA program.

1. Does my company even need MTA?

Before beginning the process of setting up multitouch attribution, digital marketers should ask themselves whether or not their specific media mix makes sense for MTA.

A question that marketers might consider: “Is my audience going to see multiple touch points and channels on their journey with my brand before they convert?” The brands best situated for MTA are those that have diversified media channels that span across the funnel and allow consumers to have multiple touch points.

Further, all MTA solutions are limited in their ability to measure the impact of walled-garden impressions, so marketers should consider what percentage of their budgets is dedicated to channels such as Facebook or Google custom audiences.


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One word of caution: Do not assume your internal company climate is ready for multitouch attribution. Generally speaking, many brands can expect to find that internal sales and revenue data is focused on a last-touch model. The MTA model will often challenge prior assumptions about the channels and tactics that are most efficient for driving business outcomes.

What actions are your organization willing to take based on such results? If the answer is very little, ask yourself whether the time and resources for a full implementation of MTA are worth pursuing. Instead, for example, you might consider starting with lift experiments and geo holdouts to test for incrementality prior to jumping into a full MTA system.

2. What’s our current data strategy?

Simply put, the quality of data going in is going to be the quality of data coming out.

External media data, such as impressions and clicks, and internal transactional data need to be tied to a unified ID, which can be accomplished in several ways:

  • Implementation with a MTA vendor using the MTA’s ID
  • Third-party systems to provide a persistent user ID
  • Company-specific ID tied to internal data warehouse

Successfully implementing this data pipeline is critical to getting usable insights from the MTA system. It’s also important to consider organizing a cross-functional team between data warehouse engineers, business analytics and marketers who can speak at the technical level and understand the broader business context and marketing use case from the beginning.

3. What should I look for in a partner?

MTA vendors can differ widely in methodology, areas of focus, account management and pricing, among other things. One method for evaluating options is to create a matrix of requirements that allow you to review the broader landscape and take into consideration the specific needs of your business’s intended use case, types of media channels you are active on, nuances of your data structure and desired level of account management support and training.

As mentioned, it may be necessary to create an internal, cross-functional team and establish clear roles of responsibility for validating the data coming out of the MTA system during the proof-of-concept phase. Teams such as business analytics and finance may be helpful to include throughout the process in order to gain acceptance of the methodology.

4. What goals do I have post-implementation?

One thing that marketing leaders should be thinking about from the beginning is how they are going to use MTA and the insights after implementation. Having all marketing channel owners and agencies trained to understand the data will help you begin to change the way your team optimizes media buying.

Even when implemented well, brands often underuse their MTA solution, relegating the system to a budget allocation tool that is checked every few weeks. Making multitouch attribution data actionable is a work in progress – the platforms are never plug-and-play. It is a customized system for every brand, and marketers should expect to work through a complex process to determine which strategic insights their teams are looking for, along with the technical details of MTA vendors.

Not all MTA relationships are set up equally. While one vendor may expect a brand to have all the technology and data flows already set up, others will walk them through that process from start to finish. Most importantly, marketers should look for an MTA account team that is responsive, works well with their team’s values and expectations, can explain the intricacies of the data and insights and seeks to understand their business and data.

Given how quickly the marketing landscape is changing, it’s imperative that brands find a vendor that innovates their product and actively builds new partnerships with media vendors to stay at the front of multitouch attribution.

Follow RetailMeNot (@RetailMeNot) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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