Marketing Attribution: Intensifying Your Online Campaigns

Marketing Attribution: Intensifying Your Online Campaigns

No amount of digital disruption or technical innovation can replace the power of a strong brand. Your company’s success always has and always will rely on the way you build brand awareness and achieve brand loyalty.

Written by Jason Stokes

6 min read

Let’s roll the clock back 60 years, when the Hierarchy of Advertising Effects made its first appearance – it made a massive impact on marketing effectiveness then, and it still applies now.

Hierarchy of Effects was built on the assumption (now proven through the decades) that consumers move through a series of cognitive and affective stages that lead to purchase decision. In between these stages brand recall and recognition are developed, laying down the core of your entire brand equity. Within this model lie your sales.

Source: Ervin and Smith

To explain this infographic further, let’s highlight that your advertising and marketing communications operate as an external stimulus that guides consumer response throughout the whole process. So if you want to find, attract and convert consumers then you have to consider these three stages throughout every marketing decision you make, big or small.

Now we must ask – is our digital era simplifying our ability to understand and nurture this Hierarchy of Effects, or complicating it?

Since we’re reaching our audiences through so many different touchpoints across an increasing number of screens and channels, keeping track of a strategy is now an amalgamation of decisions that impacts your brand as a whole. This is where marketing attribution comes into play.

What is marketing attribution?

Time and time again, companies spend money to join in with every possible online marketing effort because digital experts tell them to. But that calls for hit-and-miss strategies. And no matter how big your budget is, we just can’t have that.

So here’s our unpopular opinion: you don’t need to do it all, every time. Not every marketing platform will be applicable for your business, and not every tactic will work for you. Even if your sales are pouring in and you have attained omnipresence across screens, it’s crucial that you understand where your audience is coming from and identify what converted them into paying customers.

Marketing attribution helps you gain a clearer understanding of the different interaction opportunities customers have with your brand on their path to purchase, so that you can credit the channels and campaigns that contribute to a conversion. This way you will better understand how and where to invest your money and attention.

It’s not a straightforward approach, so you can expect a trial and error experience at first -and a lot of experimenting throughout!

“With online and offline interactions to consider, across multiple devices, platforms, and campaigns, marketing attribution has become increasingly difficult over time.”

Source: Shopify

If you want to keep winning then you can never stop driving your focus into understanding omnichannel marketing better.

And that’s why we’re here to support you! As a leading Shopify Plus Partner it’s our duty to understand the intricacies of digital marketing and how it plays out through every online retail industry. Give us a call to set up a session and we can start planning, executing and tracking your marketing campaigns the right way.

How we approach marketing attribution

The most important trait of any effective advertising measurement is organisation. For results to remain as accurate as possible, the structure of your tracking strategy needs to be clear and consistent. Here we’re going to look at the various marketing methods and attribution models that contribute to effective tracking and measurement.

Tracking pixels

A tracking pixel (or pixel tag) is an HTML code snippet which is loaded when a user interacts with your online platforms like visiting your website or opening an email. They are used by major online services and platforms such as Google Analytics and Facebook. A tracking pixel’s graphic dimension is only 1x1 pixel and is normally hidden in the background colour, so it does not interrupt, distract or confuse your users because they are unaware of it.

As part of your conversion tracking, pixels do the following: gather user data, record quantitative action, power retargeting advertising platforms and ultimately help determine campaign key performance indicators.

Tracking pixels acquire and analyse various data sets, including:

  • Operating system used on mobile
  • Type of website or email used, for example on mobile or desktop
  • Type of client used, for example a browser or mail program.
  • Client’s screen resolution
  • Time the email was read or website was visited
  • Activities on the website during a session (when using multiple tracking pixels)
  • IP address that gives information on the Internet Service Provider and location

It’s important to note that while tracking pixels are effective, they can be frowned upon. Since you’re gathering information about users without their knowledge, you need to be careful about privacy. You must always act within rules of the GDPR and inform/request consent from a user if you are gathering any such data.

UTM tagging

Urchin Tracking Module tagging is a standardised system of tagging in digital marketing. By adding snippets of text to the end of a URL you are able to track traffic from its exact origin, digging down into the specific page and post within any given traffic source.

There are 5 standard UTM parameters that you can add to your URL that helps describe incoming traffic for analytics tools so that they can be grouped, organized, and analysed better. These are:

  • Campaign Source (utm_source)
  • Campaign Medium (utm_medium)
  • Campaign Name (utm_campaign)
  • Campaign Term (utm_term)
  • Campaign Content (utm_content)

How you use these parameters (or how many of them you use) depends entirely on your campaign and unique strategy, so you can go about your tagging however you see fit. The important thing is to remain consistent in your labelling and tracking, and ensure that everyone on the team involved with a project have a clear understanding of your tracking efforts.

Source: HubSpot

As far as marketing attribution goes, UTM tagging is exceptionally useful. But it’s still not perfect. The data you gather from this tracking process can be flawed because if the same user is visiting and re-visiting your site from multiple devices, each interaction will be attributed as a separate user on its own journey.

So while you may think a single campaign or traffic source is a success, it’s possible that you’re merely looking at one person going through the conviction stage of the Hierarchy of Effects, in which they will re-browse and re-analyse your product before making a decision to purchase.

Luckily there’s a way to solve this problem!

By grouping user journeys across devices with User IDs you can unify interactions across these devices, as well as online and offline touchpoints for each customer. Not only does this improve your UTM tracking efforts, but also gives you exceptional insight into how your consumers engage with your online platforms throughout their own buying journey. When you gather this sort of valuable information in bulk, you can start tweaking and improving more aspects of your brand, from campaign strategies and marketing ideas to UX decisions and product design.

Which marketing attribution model should you use?

There are six main types of marketing attribution models that you can use to determine where in the funnel you want to place the most value. There is no right or wrong model. Every sale has its own journey and story to tell, so there are a lot of different ways to assign value to campaigns and touchpoints. Each model offers a new outlook on the impact that different campaigns and interactions have on conversions.

It’s only once you start implementing marketing attribution that you will gain a clearer understanding of which marketing attribution model is applicable in varying campaigns:

1. First-touch attribution model gives 100% credit to the very first touchpoint in the journey. This attribution model works well when you’re trying to determine the strength that your campaigns have on brand awareness, but it doesn’t deliver much insight on the true influence of a conversion.

2. Last-touch attribution model is the default attribution model in your Google Analytics account and is used widely. In this model, the very last touchpoint before a conversion is considered the most important. It sheds light on the direct channel that triggered a sale, but unfortunately disregards all the fine-tuned effort that went into earlier steps of your marketing strategy.

3. Linear (even-weighted) attribution model splits the value of each touchpoint up equally. This gives a clearer understanding of what happened in the middle of the journey so that you can start understanding user patterns and buyer trends. It’s important to give credit to every touchpoint users come across because they unify a full journey, but you should avoid letting a lesser-valued interaction steal the thunder of a highly important touchpoint.

4. Time decay attribution model gives more weight to clicks that happened closer to the time of conversion. It doesn’t ignore any interaction that leads to a conversion (since they are all valuable), but rather highlights that interactions become more and more important the closer a user comes to making a purchasing decision.

5. Position-based attribution model assigns 40% credit to the first touch and 40% to the last touch, then divides 20% evenly between every middle point. It makes sense to consider introduction touchpoint and trigger touchpoint as significantly influential, but middle touchpoints still deserve credit as they carry the weight of bringing introduction and trigger together.

6. Algorithmic attribution model (or custom attribution) is the most advanced model and offers highly accurate credit results. Unlike the first five models, custom attribution is not based on bold assumptions but rather makes use of machine learning and historical data to refine the value placed on a complete customer journey. Because it’s so intricate, you will need the skills of a data-scientist or the help of Google 360 Suite to execute effectively.

What you should do next

We all want to create smarter strategies and improve ROI. If your business is growing, then targeting the right consumers at the right time will become one of your strongest focus points – and marketing attribution is the best way to get started. Get in touch with us and we’ll enhance the outcome and success of your every effort!

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