By Rebecca Heath and Sofia Collins

What is the optimal budget split between all my channels? How can I improve my overall digital marketing return on investment? How are channels interacting with each other? Read this blog for help with answering these questions and avoiding common pitfalls.

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Giving more credit to Cross-Channel Attribution

Once you have nailed optimisation within individual channels and have proven that attribution helps improve your return on investment, you will be in a good place to start thinking about the bigger picture: establishing the optimal budget split across all your digital marketing channels. 

This inherently involves deep-diving into the fast paced and non-linear consumer journey to assign credit to the most influential channels - also known as cross-channel (or multitouch) attribution (MTA). 

User Interactions Attribution

What’s involved with Multi-Touch Attribution?

To do MTA, you’ll need a platform which can report on as much of your digital marketing activity as possible, such as a web analytics tool or your DSP; for example, Google Analytics 360 or Campaign Manager.

Step 0: Platform Set Up

First and foremost, you’ll need to ensure your activity is tracked correctly, floodlights are firing, platforms are integrated, naming conventions are best-practice, and you’ve set up correct channel groupings - data quality is fundamental. With MTA, it is very much “What you put in is what you get out”. Sometimes what is required for attribution may be different than what you’ve been historically doing; setting up a Data-Driven Attribution Model in Campaign Manager for example.

Step 1: Establish objectives

What are your objectives and priorities? Establish the questions you want answered from an attribution practice and create a roadmap for tackling them. 

Step 2: Which attribution model?

There isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” attribution model; you need to find the best one for your business. A variety of models are pre-built within platforms or Merkle can create a custom-built attribution model for you.

Step 3: Implementation and enablement

The next phase is where you implement the solution - be it ready-made or custom - and create a centralised reporting output. During this stage, it would also be a good idea to ensure everyone is up to speed and onboard with this change in cross-channel measurement. 

Step 4: Reporting and optimisation 

Here we start to see the impact: where you may have been under/over-valuing different channels with last click reporting. It will indicate areas where you should re-allocate budget to improve your ROI. You will start using the new attribution model for your main cross-channel reporting and to generate direct, actionable steps. This stage can go on indefinitely, until we are fully optimised. 

You may for example end up re-allocating budget from a poorly performing Paid Search ad group to a strongly performing but underfunded, Display Prospecting campaign through looking at attributed ROAS and CPAs. 

According to eMarketer, less than 10% of companies are doing attribution holistically (reference: eMarketer report 2019).

Through our extensive experience and range of clients, we have identified two of the biggest roadblocks to getting the most out of attribution and have developed processes to overcome these. 

Lack of company-wide buy in

Roadblock 1: Lack of company-wide buy-in 

Attribution is a journey and everyone needs to be on board, or the boat won’t sail very far. Attributed channel performance can vary significantly from the current reporting, which can (and should) affect media budgets, so it is important to manage this change effectively.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what channel conversions come from, as long as you get more bang for your buck. 

To overcome this roadblock, we have processes in place:

  1. Think about Stakeholders: When it comes to Attribution, there are many stakeholders, from account managers who will be activating in the platforms, to c-suite level executives who make big budget decisions. You need to think what matters most to each stakeholder, and tailor your content accordingly. 

  2. Training and education: we deliver top class attribution training to ensure the whole team is skilled in the value and practice of attribution. Crucially, we are good at changing mindsets within the business to gain company-wide trust. 

  3. Clear actions, responsibilities, and timeframes: this is essential to make sure actions get implemented to get the most from attribution. 

  4. Centralised reporting: ensure everyone is looking at the same set of numbers will facilitate the decision-making process.

  5. Shared project documentation: use a roadmap to clearly plan when you’re going to run tests, to ensure these are carried out in a structured way. You should also have a measurement tracker to record details of the tests and their results. 

  6. Regular communication: maintain regular cross-channel and cross-agency meetings to share information, check up on progress/tests, and follow up on results. Every member needs to be responsive and agile.

Lack of true business goal

Roadblock 2: Lack of true business goal 

There should not be competition between channel-specific KPIs vs business-oriented KPIs. Channel-specific KPIs are still very important for day-to-day channel optimisation. However, the KPI you need to use for Attribution is your macro conversion (if you’re an ecommerce business, this should almost always be transactions). Although impressions are a good indicator of reach, your focus when deciding cross-channel budgets should be “What activity is bringing the most value to my bottom line”.

Attribution is disruptive.

To summarise, attribution is disruptive to the status quo. It represents a paradigm shift in your reporting and requires a change in mindset to manage this effectively. So, if cross-channel has you in a crux, give us a call!

If you would like to know more, please get in touch with our experts.

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