Digital marketing attribution for beginners: Part 1

Posted by CarGurus Admin on December 11, 2019

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, marketing attribution modelling is a measure of the tangible impact a piece of publicity or communication has on your company’s bottom line. Very simply, if you’ve paid for something like an advertisement, attribution will tell you the monetary value of that particular initiative.

Put like that, it sounds simple. There are plenty of metrics for keeping tabs on whether or not various forms of publicity are earning their keep, but digital marketing is now so extensive that its best asset—trackability—can be extraordinarily tricky to keep up with. That’s where digital marketing attribution comes in: an easily observable lowdown of what does and doesn’t influence your customers’ decisions.

As with most digital initiatives, attribution models have developed rapidly, becoming more granular and providing superior insight over time, so even dealers well-versed in the technology may want to refresh their understanding. Read on to find out the difference between the now old-fashioned and the latest versions, and what each will do for your business.

First and last-touch attribution

Plenty of dealers will already be using attribution models and familiar with the benefits, but older and more established examples only provide part of the picture.

First-touch or first-click attribution models identify the channel that initially brought the customer to your website. They would tell you, for example, whether or not a search ad was responsible for drawing a customer to your website, or if an email campaign was successful at increasing clicks. Essentially, they highlight the customer’s first point of contact.

Last-touch or last-click attribution is exactly the same but, as the name suggests, it’s the other way around. It puts the spotlight on the customer’s final interaction with the business before a sale, so you can see if an e-lead, online chat, or a phone call led directly to a purchase.

Both first and last-touch attribution are clearly useful to dealers, but they are one-trick ponies, and only tell a small part of the story compared to the modern alternative.

Multi-touch attribution

Multi-touch attribution provides dealers with the full spectrum of information about where their leads came from. Unlike the first and last-click models, it produces a complete breakdown of customers’ interactions with the business and its publicity from start to finish—and everything in between—and provides an indication of exactly which element in that process was the most valuable.

Its strength is its granularity. While it’s clearly vital to understand how and where customers first come into contact with your business and their last stop before they make a sale, there is a myriad of factors—especially digital ones—in between, each with varying levels of influence and correlative financial clout.

The process isn’t as space-age as it sounds, either. Modern tracking algorithms are sophisticated enough to follow and depict a customer’s online footprint in great detail, so it is simply a case of using existing technology to map out the digital pathway to a purchase in its entirety—and pointing at the most valuable bit.

Why do dealers need to know about attribution?

The vast majority of retailers use various different forms of digital marketing, be it search ads, email marketing campaigns, social media, or any of the wealth of other methods. Although hugely beneficial, there’s so much of it that it’s hard to keep track and work out which method leads to the best return on investment.

Put simply, attribution tells you. Even in its older and simpler forms, it can cut through some of the fog of online marketing, while multi-touch attribution clears the air completely, so you can channel your spend and get the best bang for your buck. Our white paper breaks down attribution in-depth and is well worth a read for dealers who want a greater understanding of the process.

Topics: Attribution, best practices, digital marketing, paid search