Attribution Maturity: Cross-Device Insight

Bryce MarshallLast week Forrester and the IAB released a report entitled “Digital Attribution Comes of Age” (a PDF can be downloaded from the IAB here. The headline thesis of the report is expressed as The Last-Click Paradigm Erodes as Marketers Turn to Fractional Attribution.
Last-click attribution is not entirely trusted widely, but is widely relied upon as a better-than-nothing view of advertising effectiveness. What Forrester and IAB identify as fractional attribution remains something that many marketers believe in, but are not practicing uniformly – neither in the proportion of organizations utilizing fractional attribution nor in their methodology and scoring.

What was very interesting to me is the sixth key finding of the report: “Attribution across devices represents a major challenge.” This is very interesting because it highlights the challenges that many marketers have connecting actions of a single user (or profile) across multiple devices. As the report explains:

    “Cross-device attribution is a growing problem. A customer’s journey increasingly traverses more than one device. Thirty-eight percent of the US online adult population owns and uses at least three data-connected devices, accesses the Internet multiple times per day, and goes online from multiple physical locations — and that proportion will undoubtedly rise.”

In a world where many of our most desirable consumers are engaging with brands through multiple devices (home computer, work computer, smartphone, tablet, and more) this takes on very specific importance.
From a technical perspective, the challenge is consistent recognition and tracking of unique profiles as individuals across these devices. In the IAB’s attribution primer (PDF) section 3.1.2.1, defines the challenge in these terms:

    “A user who accesses the same marketing message across multiple devices will generally have a different user identifier for each device. This means that their engagement with the mobile version of the web site can’t be counted in the attribution model for a purchase made via their laptop.”

Addressing this, Knotice is an advocate for profile-based data management and analytics. Our proprietary Universal Profile Management solution aligns a marketer’s proprietary data (CRM, demographics, purchase history) with consumer online behavior and activity (such as web, email, display and search) at a user-by-user or “profile” level. One of the key benefits of this approach is the application of a single identifier for known profiles, which can be referenced in a first party cookie. With the proper tools in place, an individual profile can be observed across channels, and those cross-channel activities can then be associated together very cleanly. This helps our Actionable Analytics team derive clear path-to-purchase views of consumers across primary online channels, as well as develop advanced attribution models.

This also helps us solve for the multi-device challenge. Essentially this comes down to stitching together specifics of the multiple devices and browsers that a known profile (an individual) is using to engage with a brand. Because the channel execution tools are native to Knotice’s technology – like email – there are multiple opportunities to set first-party cookie values unique to each specific user across various devices. Think of the customer on the email marketing list who opens their emails at work, at home, on their smartphone, or in front of the TV on their tablet. With each of those events, the device information would then be associated to their unique profile. This enables clear tracking and association of traditionally disparate activities, like a mobile web visit with a desktop display ad click, and wraps that data around the individual’s profile.

Many of our customers are enjoying the benefits of this path-to-purchase and attribution clarity. They also benefit from understanding those activities across devices and browsers. For instance, it helps them see precisely how traditionally tough-to-measure spend like mobile display advertising is contributing to mobile commerce revenue. And it also provides an associated step in a purchase path that may culminate with an order through the traditional ecommerce site, as in a PC browser.

It all starts with the profile-centric approach to data collection and management. It’s clearly a benefit and we believe it represents a very important development in online marketing that will be adopted by the smartest brands out there very soon.

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