Marchex: The Time of Mobile is Over. It's the Age of Attribution

Posted on: Wednesday 30 November 2016

The time for talking about the year of mobile is well and truly over. As we head into 2017 it is time we focus on the Year of Attribution, says Anna Forbes, Managing Director, UK, Marchex.

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If you type “Year of Mobile” into Google you get over 1 Million results. Thought piece after thought piece has declared year after year that it is now indeed ‘The Year of Mobile’. But guess what? While we spent countless hours crafting thought pieces on the decade of mobile, it came and went. Mobile is old news, and if your agency or brand isn’t on-board, you’re now officially a dinosaur. What we all need to turn our attention to now is the Age of Attribution.

Everywhere you look, mobile is overtaking desktop in both device usage and advertising spend. Where is that money going? By all estimates, we’re coming to the end of the first “Year of Attribution,” but are we really any closer to solving the vast challenge of ‘IKTHTMISOAIW’ that has plagued the advertising world for over a hundred years? In every iteration of advertising we must find a way to measure, to optimize, to enhance our campaigns and try to reclaim that half of “wasted” ad spend. So. Have we done it? Have we cracked the code?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: No, we haven’t.

In the world of digital advertising we’ve become addicted to simplistic models and KPIs. The biggest offender in this world of over-simplification is, by and large, “last click.” Consequently, there’s an inertia to move to something less black and white. We in advertising tend to fear the subjective, if it can’t be boiled down to a quick blurb or cell on a spreadsheet, then we can’t use it. It’s this kind of fear, this kind of thinking that’s keeping the industry from progressing past IKTHTMISOAIW into a subjective, but ultimately, more accurate realm. The current models are being held together with band-aids. And we have to rip the band-aid off to make the move.

IAB stated it best when they said, “Anything but last-touch,” as a mantra for digital marketing as a whole. We’ve got to take over-simplifications such as Last-Touch, Likes, Shares, Followers, Views, Calls, and drive them into the middle of the woods and let them run from our reports into the wild. Vanity metrics won’t get us anywhere. No, the only thing a CMO should focus on is this: What’s the overall impact of my marketing efforts?

And, in order to fully understand that impact you have to unlock your data. In order to truly understand your ROI, you need to first build KPIs around the customer lifetime value (CLV) of a customer. This number is a big key to understanding how everything else works, and in having this number on a post-it note on your monitor, the lock screen on your mobile, on your mirror in your restroom, anywhere you look, you’re able to trace all of your efforts back to the bottom line. Are these programs driving value to my business? Am I optimizing enough to make new customers valuable? Are my efforts worth it?

Once this CLV is firmly burned into your brain, only then will you be able to define which channels and KPIs are needed for your attribution model. That’s the thing; attribution isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s malleable, it’s shifting and it’s completely relevant to your business. The more data you gather, the more you’ll be able to understand a customer’s journey, and by doing so, understand the channels and KPIs that are proving the most value to your efforts. Avinash Kaushik puts this quite well, “This is a tough challenge. Simply because reality is complicated.” It is damned complicated. You have to account for views across device, across screens, across channel, online to in-store, all of them can play an equally important part in your digital and non-digital marketing efforts. And, again, there’s no universal solution. There’s great ideas, good tips and best practices; however, what’s working for Brand X isn’t necessarily going to work the same for Brand Y. We must continue to test, to experiment, to compare results and test them all again. These solutions will be constantly shifting, changing and adapting, and we can’t limit our time on making sure we’re moving beyond IKTHTMISOAIW into knowing what’s driving our sales across device, channel and online to offline. It’s not the Year of Attribution, it’s the Age of Attribution.

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