Clearing Up The Myths Surrounding Attribution: AOL’s Nikki Retallick

Clearing Up The Myths Surrounding Attribution: AOL’s Nikki Retallick

Attribution is a mystical topic everyone seems to have an opinion on these days. In this guest post by Nikki Retallick, Head of Data and Attribution APAC, AOL, she dives deep and tries to clear the fog surrounding attribution.

Whilst attending a marketing conference recently, I was asked what I thought the biggest hurdles around attribution are. I didn’t even have to pause for breath before I replied ‘perception and education’.

Along with the phrases ‘big data’ and ‘programmatic’ that came before it, attribution means so many different things to different people, ranging from simple measurement and assigning credit retrospectively, right through to the more sophisticated optimisation and scenario planning capability.

So, in an effort to debunk some myths, raise awareness and generally change perceptions, here’s my take on what brands, marketers and their media agencies should be aware of when it comes to the ‘A’ word:

Finding the needle in a haystack

One of the biggest challenges for businesses today is battling with too many disparate tools and platforms, resulting in different data streams that don’t necessarily relate to one another. In an effort to make sense of all this data, we often lose sight of the key business questions we’re actually trying to address.

Therefore having a single source of truth from accurate customer pathing across every channel, both digital and otherwise, helps brands start to understand their customer and put them front and centre. Your customers don’t think in marketing channels, so neither should you.

Choose an approach or solution that will help unify your marketing, rather than treating digital and offline separately.

Making a difference

Successful attribution has to be timely – a daily insight is the standard to aim for. The data you yield also needs to be actionable – creating confidence in the form of “if I do X, I can expect Y outcome”.

A good sanity check is this: if you think you are doing attribution, but you’re not doing anything differently off the back of it, then you are not doing it properly. Within six months of being up and running, you should be starting to see some significant improvements.

My data’s bigger than yours

Data quality is everything so have a close look at your customer data, what shape it’s in and any limitations or black holes in collection and/or ownership. If your business has a physical store component, how much detailed information are you currently collecting around footfall and sales?

If a third-party retailer is involved in your sales process, are they giving you adequate access to your customer data?

Don’t chuck it in the too hard box

If this were easy, you’d already be doing it. We are all consumers and we know the way we browse and buy things now and what influences our decisions is becoming ever more complex. But rather than giving up before you even get started or expecting to go from a last click approach to perfection, treat attribution as a journey rather than a destination.

The most important thing is to know where you’re going, understand how you’re going to get there and to get started. Once you’re ready to invest in marketing technology, look for a solution that is going to constantly learn, adapt and evolve over time.

Beware of solutions that can only measure digital activity – consumers are more complex than this.

Don’t pass the buck

Understanding your customer and having the ability to have a significant, positive impact on your bottom line should be everyone in your organisation’s priority. Understand who has the most ownership and accountability in these areas and ensure you work together as a team to adopt best practice.

Get your C-Suite involved and invested so you have the time and support you need to set up for success. Now is a great time to look at people, tools and processes – even small adjustments can reap huge rewards further down the line.

Ensure you’re all aligned to the same big picture goals, which ultimately should be closely related to revenue and profitability. Right?

Take control but expect help, support and learning

The service and support from your solutions provider is everything – look for providers who have local teams on the ground and can be close enough to your business to function as an extension to your marketing team.

Make sure they’re doing the heavy lifting but still empowering your team to gain more confidence in this area over time. Don’t give in to fear and pass it over to your media agency to handle – absolutely work together with them on it but this is your business and you’re the ones accountable for its success or otherwise.

How much is all of this going to cost?

It depends on the size and scope of your business and whether you take a staged approach (highly advisable) or go in all guns blazing. However much you spend though, it should be viewed as a wise investment rather than a hard cost to the business.

The amount of companies who spend up to $10 million or more each year on marketing, with full knowledge they can’t measure it properly, but balk at the idea of spending three to five per cent of this figuring out how to make every dollar spent work its hardest is astounding. Expect a return, that’s why you’re doing it!

Proper marketing measurement is a necessity rather than a luxury in the post-digital age. If you don’t have an in-depth knowledge of your customer journey, giving you the ability to optimise messaging and placement in real time, you can guarantee your competitors will leave your brand in the dust.

Doing nothing is no longer an option. Now is most definitely the time so get started and enjoy the journey.


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