The Issue of Attribution

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2012-03-21 Print this article Print


At issue is attribution. In its report Adobe said the term €œattribution€ refers to the models marketers use to determine the role that each marketing channel€”such as paid search, social media and email€”plays in business outcomes: visitors, revenue, page views and so on. Adobe offers the example of a consumer using Bing to search for shoes, who clicks on a retailer€™s paid search ad with a discount offer and then makes a purchase. The marketer assumes that the paid search ad drove the sale and attributes credit for the purchase to the Bing ad.

€œEverybody€™s interested in social, but they don€™t know exactly how to spend their money,€ Chandra told eWEEK. €œThey need an attribution model. There€™s not a lot of clarity on how to measure ROI.€

The assumption that the marketing channel most responsible for a consumer€™s behavior is the channel that the consumer last touched before a visit or purchase is called last-click attribution. Last-click attribution became widely used in the early days of e-commerce. It works particularly well for search, email and other direct-response media channels because it measures the behavior of customers who are further along the engagement or purchase process. And it is still the attribution model most extensively used by marketers to measure all types of digital media.

While last-click attribution assumes that the marketing channel most responsible for a consumer€™s behavior is the channel the consumer last touched before a visit or purchase, first-click attribution places responsibility on the channel the consumer first touched. Social media creates an environment in which brands can build awareness and engage with prospective and existing customers early in the purchase process, Adobe said.

By ignoring the value of the earlier interactions, last-click attribution gives disproportionate credit to the marketing channels customers use late in the purchase process, potentially undervaluing the role of other channels in building awareness, engagement, and ongoing relationships between customers and brands. In contrast, first-click attribution gives social media more credit for these earlier interactions. The difference between last-click and first-click is significant and has the potential to change the way companies allocate social media budgets.

Indeed, the impact of social media on Websites is generally higher when measured with first-click attribution models than with last-click models, and Adobe€™s analysis shows that the gap can be significant. For example, using first-click attribution for the retail Websites Adobe analyzed, the average visitor from social media sites delivered $1.13 in revenue. In contrast, when using last-click attribution, the average visitor from social media generated $0.60. The same analysis for travel and media companies showed first-click attribution resulting in values that were 94 percent and 28 percent higher, respectively, than the values calculated using last-click attribution, Adobe said.

€œAs an industry, digital marketers have been quick to add social media to the marketing mix, but have perhaps not considered new and better ways to measure this complex channel,€ Chandra said.€ This study shows that marketers tend to default to traditional direct measurement models. Better measurement of social marketing will lead to better ROI.€

Chandra added that the difference between last-click attribution and its connection with search and first-click and its connection with social is like looking at a first date versus getting married. €œSearch looks at the process of getting married, whereas social is more like looking at that first date and everything that came afterward that led up to a marriage.€

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel