Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing Attribution in 2019

As we get further into 2019, Marketing Executives are trying to better understand their buyers’ journey and which marketing channels are contributing sales. They are trying to determine where and how to spend their marketing dollars in a way that drives the highest possible ROI, the most well defined cross channel transactions, and where their new customer acquisitions are really coming from.

In an effort to provide more clarity around what attribution strategies Marketing Executives should be looking at, I spoke with attribution expert, Anthony Clements, about what attribution really is, and how companies should be thinking about investing in it this year.

 

What is the difference between multi-channel and omni-channel attribution? 

It’s worth saying from the outset that these two phrases are used quite interchangeably in many aspects of digital marketing, which often creates a bit of confusion for marketers. The real difference between multi-channel and omni-channel from an attribution perspective is in the outcomes.

Multi-channel attribution seeks to measure how effective an individual marketing channel is at driving a conversion. By definition it’s conversion orientated, and helps marketers understand how important each channel is at getting customers to buy their products or services. It does this either by algorithmic or ‘place-in-the-chain’ models. Multi-channel attribution thinks more in terms of marketing channels like Display, Search, Affiliate etc than it does about the customer.

Omni-channel attribution seeks to measure how customer’s engage with a business, including different types of marketing, platforms like desktop or mobile, and will also generally look at offline engagements. For businesses that embrace the theory of omni-channel marketing – creating a single, unified commerce experience across all points of customer engagement, omni-channel attribution will help to properly understand customer journeys and also help to understand how the best / most profitable customers like to engage with a business.    

 

Example of a Click-to-Consume Path Analysis using attribution. Source: Impact

 

Why do you feel companies need to invest in attribution today?

Attribution feels like one of the slowest-burns in digital marketing. The technology and principles have been around a while, but adoption has been gradual. Adoption of digital attribution has accelerated over the last two years primarily because database technology has facilitated the advent of algorithm-driven attribution which uses data modelling to ‘score’ the effectiveness of channel engagement rather than the original ‘place-in-the-chain’ concepts which were ultimately quite biased. If a marketer favoured upper-funnel traffic then a first-click model would give them the results they wanted to see. Attribution is now more scientific and less open to individual bias.

Marketers are now being asked to invest their budgets in a range of large media platforms that all operate their own, siloed tracking ecosystems. Facebook Ads runs its own event and conversion tracking, as does Google Ads, as does LinkedIN Ads. It’s vitally important that marketers have the ability to scrutinise the results from these platforms using independent technology that helps them understand their relative importance to driving conversions, rather than simply analyse the results in isolation. Throw in a host of other marketing channels like other Display platforms, Affiliate, Email and then a variety of ways for customers to transact be it desktop, mobile web, mobile app or in-store…then the need to measure fractional contribution in ever-more complex customer journeys becomes obvious.

The industry also has a much greater handle on using attribution analysis to deliver meaningful results. Attribution doesn’t generate new traffic, and that often meant it was difficult for advertisers to justify the budget. Now, it isn’t uncommon for advertisers to redistribute up to 30% of their total spend based on new insight from an attribution model, so the outputs are powerful and actionable in a way they were not a few years ago.

 

Example of an affiliate attribution analysis, looking at "Initiator" (Top of Funnel), "Contributor" (Mid Funnel) and "Converter" (Bottom of Funnel) affiliate contributions. Source: Partnerize
Example of an affiliate attribution analysis, looking at “Initiator” (Top of Funnel), “Contributor” (Mid Funnel) and “Converter” (Bottom of Funnel) affiliate contributions. Source: Partnerize

 

What recommended next steps do you think companies should take in order to get true attribution set up correctly?

Like many digital marketing initiatives, setting up a data-driven attribution model is an iterative process. A company’s online marketing needs to be of a certain size and scope to really benefit from multi-touch attribution. This is primarily because a company needs to be ready to implement the spend and tactical marketing changes that should result from attribution analysis. We normally ensure a company is running at least three online advertising channels concurrently and is already using an online analytics solution like Google Analytics to collect and analyse customer journey data before we’d advise them to invest in attribution.

It’s also important to go into attribution work free of bias as to what channels or platforms are most valuable. This can be difficult for marketers with many years experience, but an open-mind is vital to ensuring attribution analysis is actionable.

With these things all in place the next step is to find a provider. Google and Adobe operate well-known enterprise level cross-channel attribution solutions, and VIsualIQ are highly regarded at the top end of the independent market. But these solutions are cost-prohibitive to many businesses. The market for independent attribution providers is growing fast with Fopsha, AttributionApp, Conversion Logic and in the affiliate space Impact and SingleView by ROEye all doing good things.

For businesses new to the space it can be resource intensive to find the right provider and then implement the right attribution model. Consultancy services like ours help companies navigate the ever-expanding vertical of digital analytics and attribution.

 

If you wish to contact Anthony for a full review of your multi-channel and omni-channel attribution options, you can contact him here, or contact All Inclusive Marketing for a full list of affiliate specific attribution solutions for your program this year.

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