To create more effective advertising campaigns, there is one key question marketers need to ask: what was it that persuaded a consumer to make a purchase?
Determining attribution in digital advertising is one of the most difficult challenges in the industry today, and this is made even more challening with the rise in mobile devices. In both Canada and the US (according to Catalyst Canada and CNN Money respectively), mobile penetration has hit 55 percent, and around 70 percent of mobile searches lead to action within one hour.
Not surprisingly, marketers are under more pressure than ever to accurately measure the results of their mobile advertising expenditures. These, too, are on the rise, as one might predict. Mobile advertising revenues, according to estimates from eMarketer, are expected to hit $36.46 billion this year, representing a growth of 91.7 percent from 2013.
With these figures being so staggering, why is it that many advertisers continue to use the antiquated last-click attribution method to determine the point of conversion from search to sale?
It’s a fact that consumers today put in a lot of research before they buy, both online and off. While Google arguably benefits the greatest from the last-click attribution model (owing to its dominance over other search engines) the company’s own research shows that of 3,000 consumers studied, there were 3,000 different routes taken to complete their purchases.
Clearly marketers need a more accurate method of measuring attribution. There are better, more comprehensive alternatives, and interesting work being done by startups like the Mobile Experience Company with real-time POS conversions, but each one comes with its own set of limitations and drawbacks, leaving advertisers wary of straying from the “known” that is the last-click method.
Facebook’s cross-screen advertising is one option (have you ever seen “Login with Facebook” when you’re browsing?). This unified social login model, adopted also by Google, Twitter, Microsoft and Yahoo, allows users to bypass setting up individual IDs and passwords for each new account they create. The benefit to advertisers is that Facebook can track a user’s behaviour, regardless of device or search platform, to better customize its ad targeting. Advances in the social login app has been advantageous for social networks; Facebook is reported to dominate the mobile app industry at a share of 44 percent.
Sound too good to be true? For many marketers it is. Facebook’s Atlas will not let cross-device data leave the Facebook sphere, which means it cannot be pooled with data collected through other streams. There is also much talk recently about privacy and digital fingerprinting that make advertisers wary of using social login. Rob Shavell, CEO of data security company Abine, tells Mobile Marketing Magazine, “Advertising is good, targeted advertising is fine — but collecting information secretly to build a profile of people? We just don’t expect data to be used in that way.”
If you share these concerns, then you might consider partnering with a smaller ad tech company to compile more usable data. Providers such as AdBrain and Drawbridge use statistical, probabilistic or predictive attribution to guess at a user’s identity in both a cross-platform and cross-device capacity.
But here there are limitations as well: though they provide a more complete and transparent picture to clients, some argue that these smaller ad tech firms’ method of “predicting” cannot compete with the major conglomerates’ collection of hard data.
It’s a decision that each marketer needs to make for his or herself. But whichever method you choose for your mobile advertising campaigns, you need to move beyond the simple and outdated last-click attribution model if you want to better know how effectively your marketing dollars are being spent.
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