Attribution solutions failing digital marketers: report

Digital marketing managers are highly dissatisfied with current attribution solutions, according to the findings of a study commissioned by QueryClick.

The company commissioned Censuswide to carry out the study over a two week period in the first half of May. Censuswide polled 200 digital marketing professionals from retail (UK top 500), travel (UK top 100) or finance (UK top 100) businesses. To ensure respondents worked ‘at the coalface’, respondents were restricted to marketing managers and senior marketing managers who have a say in the investment decisions across multiple digital marketing channels. ‘Directors’ and ‘Heads of’ roles were excluded, as were more junior roles.

58 per cent of respondents said their current attribution model(s) were an obstacle to implementing marketing activities with a long-term payback, with only 11 per cent in disagreement.  When presented with the statement: “Investment changes we make based on attribution insights generally fail to deliver the predicted results”, 61.5 per cent of respondents agreed and fewer than one in seven disagreed. 

Over 90 per cent of all respondents apply more than one attribution model, with Data-Driven (21.5 per cent), Position-Based (20.5 per cent) and First Interaction (12.5 per cent) accounting for over half of respondents primary attribution models. Marketers using the third-most-popular First Interaction attribution model are disproportionately unlikely to find their attribution insights helpful in changing their investment strategies, followed by marketers using Position-Based and Last Click models. Marketers using Data-Driven attribution are most likely to find their insights of value.

58.5 per cent of respondents suspect that their SEO and PPC strategies are not aligned for maximum overall return on investment (ROI) for their marketing budgets; only 14.5 per cent disagreed. When asked indirectly, amid a question about the primary reason why their SEO and PPC strategies are misaligned, the proportion of respondents confident of alignment dropped even further, to just 5.5 per cent.

The latter statistic suggests 94 per cent of respondents know full-well that their investments are sub-optimal. Primary reasons for this varied, headed by budget on 26 per cent. However management pressure to focus on a particular channel (22 per cent); decisions made by agency (16 per cent); decisions made by respondent and their team (16 per cent); and inaccurate/no attribution (14 per cent) also featured.

Unreliable or false attribution leaves almost 90 per cent of marketers afraid to invest in activities with any kind of long-term payback because of their inability to prove the value. Fewer than one-in-seven marketers find that adjusting their marketing investments based on attribution insights delivers the predicted results. Overall, the survey reveals that marketers find current attribution insights tools are of negligible, arguably negative, value.

In the absence of credible attribution insights, more than two-thirds of respondents (67.5 per cent) report that internal stakeholder pressure restricts their option to invest in marketing activity that has a longer payback period than last-click measures. Six in 10 respondents feel under pressure to over-invest in Paid Search because of its instant results and easy measurability, only 15 per cent of respondents feeling no pressure to do so. As a consequence, only 14.5 per cent of respondents disputed the idea that their SEO and PPC strategies are misaligned for maximum overall return on their digital marketing investments.

“In reality it’s irrelevant whether the pressure to invest in short-term measures like PPC came first and the lack of credible attribution to resist that pressure came second, or whether the unacknowledged deficiencies of attribution are causing marketing managers, their managers and agencies to default to short-term measures like PPC,” said QueryClick founder and CEO Chris Liversidge. “The fact is that, after 20 years of everything digital being supposedly measurable, attribution is digital marketing’s dirty secret; a huge broken promise that will cost UK companies a significant proportion of the £15bn it will spend directly on digital marketing this year alone – and far, far more when you factor in the missing return on that investment.”

QueryClick’s own a Unified Analytics solution, Corvidae, blends online and offline data, using a patented machine-learning approach. The company claims it cleanses marketing data and reveals up to 334 per cent more data for attribution than any other available solution.

You can download the full report here.