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Marketers Continue to Push Ahead to a More Holistic Attribution Practice

Interest in improved measurement and attribution is hardly new

August 16, 2017

As marketers struggle to keep pace with the proliferation of marketing channels and touchpoints, the case for a more holistic attribution practice has been building, according to eMarketer’s latest report “Marketing Attribution 2017: Five Best Practices.” (Subscribers to eMarketer PRO can access the report here. Nonsubscribers can purchase the report here.)

An annual poll conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Winterberry Group showed the greatest portion of US digital marketing and media practitioners planning to devote most of their attention in 2017 to better reporting, measurement and attribution, alongside many other customer-centric practices, such as cross-device audience recognition and audience targeting.

Topics/Developments that Will Command Most of Their Attention According to US Digital Marketing/Media Practitioners, 2016 & 2017 (% of respondents)

Interest in improved measurement and attribution is hardly new: Past surveys have also emphasized the importance of such practices, though the actual transition from aspiration to action has been quite slow.

At its core, attribution is the practice of assigning credit to any advertising- or marketing-driven interaction or other brand-imposed touchpoint. Today, just slightly more than half (50.2%) of US companies are using multichannel attribution models for their digital marketing efforts, eMarketer estimates. That portion will rise slightly to 58.5% by 2018.

“Mature marketers who are doing [attribution] at the channel level recognize that’s got to change,” said Wayne Townsend, president of technology at marketing management and data services firm Epsilon. “They know consumers are interacting with their brand on a bunch of different channels, and if they’re only looking at one channel at a time, at some point it loses its effectiveness.”

eMarketer’s estimates point to more companies using multichannel attribution in their digital marketing programs. But that’s just the beginning: Those adopting a more audience-centric view must also integrate offline channels and other consumer-facing efforts into this practice to gain a more three-dimensional view.

While there is little data today showing how many companies are capable of this type of holistic attribution practice, studies suggest that universe is quite small. For example, a November 2016 survey from Econsultancy and IBM Watson Marketing found just 8% of client-side marketers worldwide felt confident in their implementation of an omnichannel customer view. Instead, the majority were only just beginning this arduous process.

Limits on time, money and staff; organizational pushback; and issues associated with integrating the data and technology are just some of the many roadblocks companies face. In spite of these challenges, marketers continue to push ahead to a more holistic attribution practice. While few companies may be worthy of expert status, many are exercising best practices and methodically moving forward. The remainder of this report focuses on five factors such marketers tend to have in common.


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