Attribution 15 min read

The Current State of Attribution: 4 Things We’ve Learned from Industry Events

By Laura Imrie 15 April, 2021

Attribution is a growing industry (which is expected to be worth over $3 billion by 2023!) so, it’s crucial that marketers have a deep understanding of its importance and how it can be used to solve the day-to-day challenges that come with biased reporting and multichannel, multidevice buying journeys.

But how do marketers currently see the world of attribution? We’ve noticed a few marketing attribution trends while attending virtual industry events over the recent months that we wanted to shed a light on.

Here are 4 things we’ve learned about the state of attribution in 2021…

1. Marketers aren’t confident that there’s a sufficient solution for the removal of third-party cookies

The removal of third-party cookies is imminent. And if you’re a marketer, you’ll be very aware of that fact; you will have read the blogs, downloaded the guides, attended the webinars. But despite the abundance of information available about the issue, it’s become more and more clear that marketers don’t feel they’re adequately prepared – or have enough options when it comes to a solution.

In a fireside chat with Quantcast during March’s Festival of Marketing, Catherine Woodward, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at leading furniture retailer, DFS, summed this up perfectly. When asked if she felt the industry was prepared for the removal of third-party cookies, Catherine responded:

“There’s a lot of information out there. I’m yet to see much in terms of the solutions […] We’re at that stage of moving from ‘Okay, we understand the problem. We accept there’s an issue coming, and we can’t ignore it.’ But we need to change that mindset to ‘How are we going to fix that’ and ‘What’s the solution going to be?’.”

We can’t escape, the change in data collection is going to be huge for marketers. And we all know the last-minute panic most businesses experienced when GDPR was introduced. To ensure these impending changes don’t create the same chaos, marketers need to be prepared.

What’s key to remember, is that these changes will impact more than the ability to show the right ads to the right audience at the right time.

If you’re not ready for the removal of third-party cookies, then your (probably already very flawed) analytics are going to suffer massively. This is something that DFS are already aware of as Catherine shared her view:

“It’s not just about the targeting of our activity, it’s about the measurement of it. If we don’t know what partner or what publisher is performing for us, how can we optimise our plans? How can we take them forward and grow the business?”

That’s why having control over your own first-party data – being able to collect and then use that to make data-driven decisions that will drive growth – is crucial.

2. Attribution can seem over complicated and hard to explain to peers outside the marketing function 

Attribution can be a difficult proposition for a lot of marketers and – as uncovered by research from Bright Pearl – there is a huge disconnect between having an omnichannel strategy and implementing it. With 91% of retailers saying they have the strategy in place or planned – and only 12% reporting they have the right technology in place to support it

And often, attribution is given a bad rap because marketers have been burned in the past; by using the attribution tools that come bolted on to their “off-the-shelf” analytics platforms – such as GA360 or Adobe Analytics – which can’t give accurate reports and so result in a confused marketing strategy and a lot of wasted budget.

During a webinar with QueryClick’s CEO, Chris Liversidge and Head of eCommerce at QUIZ, Haroun Saleemi, we discovered that 63% of the audience believed marketing attribution was an important part of their marketing stack. Although it’s over half, that meant that there was still over 1/3 of attendees who felt otherwise.

Upon seeing these results, the above point was echoed by Chris:

“I do wonder how much of that is a cohort of people that have tried and written off attribution as something that can work for them.”

And if attribution seems like a foreign land to those within the marketing function, it’s highly unlikely that anyone who works outside the department will be bought into the solution either, as Haroun explained:

“I think one of the key issues really is complexity. We’ve been presented with a few attribution options in the past, and it just seems over complicated, difficult to understand what the model actually is. And if I can’t understand that, how can I communicate that across to the rest of the business?” 

If you want to take some of the complexity out of attribution, check out our jargon-free glossary of attribution terms you should know.

3. Marketers struggle to justify the need for an attribution solution to company stakeholders

There’s no denying that attribution matters. Customer journeys are becoming more complex, spanning multiple touchpoints across varying devices – meaning marketers have an enormous amount of data to deal with. And the last 12 months have accelerated this even further. As everyone has been forced to stay at home, more people have had time to spend online – something which David Robinson, COO at Petsathome, referred to as “nesting” in a session at the Retail Bulletin’s Omnichannel event at the beginning of 2021.

With the sheer amount of data that’s now available, marketers know that the key to achieving business growth is through utilising that data to optimise your marketing spend. But often, marketers lack the right tools – or have too many siloed tools – to do this and the biggest hurdle they face is in being able to effectively relay the importance of investing in new pieces of MarTech, such as an attribution tool, to company stakeholders.

Stakeholders, especially CFOs, want to see immediate results from investments and so tend to steer away from any marketing activity that’s viewed as a ‘slow-burner’. In fact, our own research found that 68% of Marketing Directors report that internal stakeholder pressure actively restricts the option to employ marketing activity with longer term payback.

While discussing how Confused.com broke category norms to grow their market share by 50% at last month’s Festival of Marketing, CMO Sam Day shared his experience of presenting a long-term brand project to the CEO and CFO and shared some insights into how to get company stakeholders on board.

So how do you get buy-in from stakeholders?

1. Speak their language

The key takeaway around securing buy-in from internal stakeholders was to communicate your case to them in language they understand. For example, if you’re talking to the CFO then use phrases such as:

  • level of return to expect in a given time period
  • sunk costs
  • long-term investment
  • multiplier effect

It’s important to take your stakeholders on a journey so they can understand what to expect to see because of the investment from the beginning right through to the end result.

2. Build the relationship

If the only time you connect with your stakeholders is to get something approved or signed off, then it’s unlikely that they’re truly bought into what your department is trying to achieve. Building up that professional relationship will breed respect and will help you understand how to communicate with them in the most effective way.

This is a point Abigail Comber, Debenhams’s outgoing CMO, raised during their session alongside TUI at Festival of Marketing.

Make sure you’re really close to the CFO, build reputation as a marketeer that is really commercially focused and so, can make the right decisions around budget and spend.

3. Create trust

The previous two points will help you to create trust with your stakeholders, which secures confidence in your ability to make the best decisions around budget.

With slow burning activity, it can be easy to panic and decide to switch it off after 2 months of seeing minimal results – and this is probably what is recommended by stakeholders! But if you’ve taken the time to pitch your proposals in the right way and built a relationship that positions you as a commercially focused marketer, then you can inspire confidence that you’re in 100% control of a process which will bring in results not just for your department – but for the business as a whole.

As Sam advised:

“leave it running longer than you feel comfortable, mostly because everyone’s obsessed with quick, short-term ROI and by that, I mean they want to see something within 6 weeks – and I think you need to be leaving months.”

4. Modern consumers expect things on their terms; and marketers need quality analytics to meet these expectations

As Callum Campbell, CEO of Linnworks put it, there’s a rise of an “effortless economy” happening. As the consumer landscape shifts, commerce is moving closer to consumers and expectations of how, where and when they can purchase products become more sophisticated. This is something we can see more and more now with the rise of ‘1-click’ social commerce through platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

What does this mean for marketers?

If, like most marketers, the majority of your marketing spend goes into ad platforms such as Google and Facebook then you’ll know that getting data from these channels to truly understand their impact is notoriously difficult.

As social commerce grows in popularity, understanding how it fits into your marketing strategy is essential. And this can’t be done without an effective attribution tool that can break down those walled gardens.

How to use analytics to meet consumer demand

During the session, Ken Daley, CEO at JML, discussed the impact Covid-19 had on his entire business model. Usually one for creating demand, JML found themselves doing a complete 180 and began to use customer behaviour to determine the products they created. For example, with the rise in at-home workouts, they found themselves creating more exercise products to satisfy the new, growing demand.

This was highlighted again during the previously mentioned webinar with QueryClick and QUIZ. Haroun Saleemi, Head of E-Commerce at UK fashion retailer, QUIZ, discussed how they had to pivot from being a predominately occasion and party wear focused business to introducing new products to meet demand such as loungewear.

Having the right tools in place meant these brands could understand the full customer journey and where gaps existed in the market. By having this information, they could create the right products and position them in the best way to increase their growth during the pandemic. As summed up nicely by Haroun:

“Attribution helps you to be more focused on where to spend your money and which areas to focus on.”

The complete guide to marketing attribution

It’s time to leave poor data and outdated attribution models in the past. Download our free guide below to discover why effective attribution matters more now than ever – and how it can help you acquire new customers and drive a greater ROI.

The Complete Guide to Marketing Attribution

Identify wasted spend with our ROI calculator

Marketing Attribution Use Cases

Own your marketing data & simplify your tech stack.

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