4 Mistakes Agencies are Making with Marketing Attribution

4 Mistakes Agencies are Making with Marketing Attribution

With industry changes ranging from the advent of iOS14.5 to the impending death of third-party cookies the issue of effective marketing attribution is a hot topic.

So, how are agencies managing the situation on behalf of clients?

We think there are a number of key areas where they are making mistakes and here we consider:

What is marketing attribution – and why does it matter for your agency?

Marketing attribution involves identifying and evaluating the marketing touchpoints that users encounter on a buying journey – and working out the extent to which each of these individually has contributed to conversion.

From an agency perspective, it should be the lifeblood of any strategy with a client.

Attribution for agencies offers the potential to validate key media recommendations you have made to them (and adjust accordingly where needed) and also to effectively tie the impact of marketing efforts back to revenue and ROI for their business or brand.

4 marketing attribution mistakes that agencies are making right now

We think there are 4 key areas where mistakes are being made around attribution, as follows:

1. Not choosing an attribution model that takes the entire customer journey into account

Customer journeys these days are increasingly complex and unravelling the true picture of all of the touchpoints contributing to conversions can be challenging.

Take the below example of someone who is looking to buy a Smart TV:

  • The customer has seen TV and display ads for your newest version Smart TV.
  • They initially do a web search for a guide to purchasing Smart TVs and interact with educational content on your website.
  • A few days later, you send them an email and they click through to your site but don’t buy.
  • In the following days, they click through a contextual ad for your product.
  • And finally are retargeted with a very specific offer ad.
  • They click through and complete the purchase.

So, it’s clear that you have multiple touchpoints influencing the decision to buy.

However, the first attribution mistake that many agencies are making is working with over simplistic First and Last-Click attribution models that give 100% of the credit for conversion to either the initial display ad or the retargeting activity at the end.

Neither of which is a true reflection of the situation on the ground.

The knock-on effect of all this? Lower funnel media like PPC ends up being significantly overvalued, which increases competition for space on that channel. And increases CPAs across the board as a result.

While at the same time, agencies and clients are missing out on lower cost CPA opportunities further up the funnel, where there is less competition, because your attribution model is not taking account of their impact.

2. Not connecting your reporting to revenue results

The reality is that marketers are under more pressure than ever to justify their marketing spend and make the link between marketing activity and the bottom line.

In fact, research points to the fact that 84% of marketers are feeling the increased need to prove ROI.

And it makes logical sense for you, as an agency, to enable them to do that. Because the more you can show bottom line impact, the more clients are willing to invest and the more they need your agency.

However, the type of reporting that agencies often deliver stops short of proving the connection to ROI.

Providing simplistic analysis around clicks and impressions – which are important lead indicators – but not the ultimate goal from a client perspective.

So, the true power of effective attribution is not in high-level, historical reporting of KPIs but in true predictive analysis that enables the client to take positive, proactive decisions about where to place spend – all based on the predicted impact on revenue.

This is the approach which is taken by our own attribution tool, Corvidae, as shown below where the ROAS impact of switching spend between channels is clearly laid out. Which makes the report immediately actionable.

3. Taking platform data inputs at face value

And the quality of the data that agencies are feeding in to reporting for clients is pivotal to the quality of the analysis they are putting in front of them.

However, taking data at face value can be damaging – even from large platforms and solution providers like Google and Facebook.

Here are two specific examples that we typically come across in our work with clients:

Poor quality of underlying Google Analytics data

For many agencies the bedrock of their analysis is the information they are getting from GA which uses cookie-based tracking.

However, in our own experience cookies do a pretty poor job of tracking complex multi-device journeys with 80% of the data being incorrectly attributed.

Take the client example below, for a leading UK retailer where we were able to effectively rebuild their data using the AI and Machine Learning within Corvidae to correctly attribute this data – and provide a much more accurate picture of the impact of spend.

Trust issues around reporting data from other platform providers

Another area where agencies are potentially falling short is in not addressing the very real concerns that their clients have around bias in AdTech reporting.

According to research by QueryClick, an eyewatering 80% of marketers are concerned about the issue. And again, our client work echoes this.

Take the example on the right.

Here online clothing retailer QUIZ was in the invidious position of Google Analytics reporting attributable revenue for a campaign at £20,000; whilst Facebook reporting was pointing to a figure of £450,000. For the same campaign!

The truth of the matter was a revenue figure closer to £250,000, which we were able to show by rebuilding the data.

4. Not setting your clients up effectively for the removal of third-party cookies

There is also a danger that agencies are not adequately preparing their clients for the end of third-party cookies.

The timeline for this has been a bit of a moving target and agencies could be forgiven for pushing it back in their planning with clients.

But, based on Google’s most recent announcement, the date for ending cookies in their Chrome browser is now Q4 2024.

And it’s a massive change for the industry, as depending on which stats you use, Chrome has 62-66% of the browser market.

And the third-party cookies in this browser have been the mechanism to drive a huge percentage of ad targeting and personalisation.

All of that is going away and it incumbent on you as a trusted agency partner to be walking your customers through their options for tracking and measure ‘post-cookie’.

Google is suggesting cookie replacements as part of its Privacy Sandbox Initiative which is worth keeping tabs on. And there are a range of alternatives to cookies that range from focus on first-party data to contextual advertising and the use of Machine Learning and AI to effectively replace cookies.

But regardless of what you decide, you need to be discussing it with your clients now.

How Corvidae can help

Corvidae is our unique attribution tool.

We’ve been working on it for almost a decade now and we’re pretty confident in saying that we’ve cracked the solution for broken and inaccurate attribution.

Corvidae uses its patented AI technology to stitch together touchpoints across the entire customer journey – meaning no need for cookies. Providing our clients with user paths that are twice as long as Google Analytics and 95% accurate, compared to just 20% for tools that still rely on cookies for tracking.

We’ve made switching to a new attribution tool simple. All it takes is 3 simple steps to get up and running with Corvidae.

Find out more about our attribution solution for agencies and partners here. Or, download our guide below.

Getting Started With Corvidae