How do you Attribute yours?

One of the most complex areas of eCommerce is Attribution. Put simply attribution is the method of deciding which marketing channel was responsible for driving a sale – was it your email marketing? Your catalogue? or your tweets?

It’s a complex area both because there’s not yet an obvious solution, and also because the debate itself is pretty hard to follow. So I was thrilled (no, seriously I was!) to find this fantastic explanation of the debate in Infographic form by QuBit.

Web Attribution Infographic (just click here or on the image to see it in full)

History of web Attribution

Back in the day it was easy – we didn’t worry about it!

Then as online marketing grew in importance how to attribute the sales has become more and more challenging. Many businesses still rely on what Google Analytics does for you – that’s allocate the sale to the most recently tracked visit to the site. This is the “last click wins” model. Inherently unfair if you have customers who spend time researching their purchases.

We’re now seeing more intelligent methods where sales are tracked back to every source and then divided between them, or where a weighing is given to different sources.

In the infographic QuBit are also talking about a behaviour based model that treats every transaction differently.

It’s safe to say there isn’t yet a consensus, or a practical way through all this.

Why is Attribution Important?

Attribution basically solves the I-know-half-of-my-marketing-spend-is-wasted-but-I-don’t-know-which-half problem. So if you can get it right you’ll be able to fully optimise your marketing mix and greatly improve your return on investment.

If you’re not looking at Attribution then you’re overcounting your sales, and spending on marketing that isn’t really working for you. And until you start using a form of Attribution then you can’t fix that.

It’s also critical to put in place the right attribution system, if you get it wrong then you’ll be making the wrong decisions and the business will suffer. For one of indium online’s  Mail Order clients we looked at the overlap between sales driven by their emails and sales driven by their catalogue mailings. The overlap was 80%, so 80% of the orders driven by email marketing could also be classed as catalogue orders – where should we attribute them? If we decided that the orders should all be attributed to the catalogue it would have been the end of the email marketing activity. If we decided that the orders should all be attributed to the emails, then the catalogue activity would have been greatly cut back.

What should you consider in setting up your Attribution System?

The first (and most important rule) is to keep common sense in mind – if the software you find to manage your attribution is going to cost £1,000 per month is it going to save or make you more than that? If not it’s not (yet) the right solution for you.

Just as there isn’t yet a one-size fits all model for attribution, there’s also not yet a one-size fits all software solution for it. You will find reasonably priced options for managing online attribution, but they won’t take into account phoned-in orders, or offline marketing so for smaller businesses it can be really hard to find a good solution.

I’d suggest starting off with what you’ve already got and work out how bad the problem is for you.

For a given period (say a month) you should know:

  • Your total website sales
  • Your total PPC sales (if you’ve got the conversion tracking feeding straight into adwords/ adcenter)
  • Your total Email sales (again, if you’ve got the conversion tracking feeding straight into your email reporting system)
  • Your total SEO sales (in Google Analytics)

Do the marketing channels sales figures add up to more than the website sales? If so you’ve got an attribution issue – if not then you can put in your diary to check again in a few months and forget about it for now.

Another useful place to look is on Google Analytics, the Assisted Conversions report (go to Conversions / Multi-Channel Funnels / Assisted Conversions). It shows you the common paths to conversion – so if lots of people click on a PPC ad, then an email before they buy. If you have lots of customers on long paths to conversion then you’ll need to be looking at Attribution.

So what do you do?