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Ask An Expert - Attribution in a Multi-Device World

Ask An Expert - Attribution in a Multi-Device World

Bill Bruno, CEO of Ebiquity’s multi-channel analytics consultancy Stratigent, sets out some straightforward rules of thumb for building an attribution framework to track the consumer path to purchase across multiple devices.

There are two main challenges advertisers currently face - transparency and the fact that we now live in a multi-device world. Customers interact with brands on mobile devices, computers, and in person. With an increasingly complex landscape of customer touchpoints, advertisers are left with the conundrum of trying to understand which campaigns and touchpoints are responsible for each customer’s conversion.

Measurement and analysis of marketing effectiveness is one of the major imperatives for business right now. Without the ability to understand the customer journey and tie interactions across multiple devices to one user, brand owners are reduced to making educated guesses on which aspects of their marketing mix are the star performers and so should be invested in more heavily, while removing under performing investments.

A major challenge in the advertising space historically has been that ad pixels are all based upon third-party cookies. In the age of privacy, third-party cookies are taking hits left and right. As a result, we’ve seen a rise in technology that offers the ability to place first party cookies on all ad placements. In addition, Google, Verizon, Microsoft, and AT&T among others have publicly created, or divulged that they are creating specific capabilities to track individuals more accurately as they view ads on third-party sites.

With technology making strides to improve ad tracking effectiveness, the real challenge as the industry matures will be on connecting multiple devices to a single individual across the customer journey. Apps on mobile devices are increasingly the preferred medium for customers and brands should include a mobile attribution framework for their business in 2015.

For those planning to build an attribution framework for mobile apps, here are some questions for you to think about:

  • How does a visitor identify themselves within a mobile app?

  • What actions are available within the app for a user to complete?

  • What actions can only be performed on the web (website or mobile site) and so require users to jump out of the mobile app to complete?

  • What investments are being made to promote the app or drive conversion across multiple devices?

  • Is there a sound strategy in place for tracking different types of digital campaign?

An important factor to bear in mind about mobile apps is that people will naturally feel more comfortable remaining signed in or having to login in the first place since the experience is being delivered on their mobile device. So you, the advertisers, shouldn’t be afraid to push users to identify themselves when they set up the app for your future use. If you’re not doing that already, then build that in to your next release of the app. Highlight the benefits of creating an account, make it easy to set up an account (social login options, etc.) and then reap the benefits of being able to collect the right information going forward.

Next, don’t attempt to reinvent the wheel with analytics tracking within the mobile app. It doesn’t matter which screen I’m on within the app, all that matters is what actions I perform within the app. When building an attribution framework, you just need to be able to do the following:

  • Track individual users based on a login or loyalty account;

  • Identify the device, OS and app version;

  • Track the actions within the app as they happen;

  • Or simply collect them if the device is offline and send the data later.

Taking this approach, you will be able to confidently track which actions users are completing within the app – and, critically, who they are. The more difficult hurdle is tracking the same person across multiple mobile devices and your other channels.

Here are four fundamentals to bear in mind:

  1. Remember that this will never be an exact science, and 100 per cent accuracy is impossible.

  1. Do the best possible job at collecting information so you can be confident in the decisions you make based on the story the data is telling you.

  1. If you’ve set it up right, you already have the user identified within your mobile app.

  1. If there are actions that can only be completed on the web, then include links within the mobile app so users can jump directly to the site. When they do this, you can pass along identifiers in the link to ensure you can track that activity from start to finish.

If the user doesn’t jump from within the mobile app and just simply comes to your website from a laptop or a mobile browser, if the action requires a login first, then you’re all set. But if the action doesn’t require a login, then you have to track those actions as they happen and tie it all together down the road once that user provides identifying information, which may happen in a future visit.

If you break the approach down logically as outlined in this article, you’ll be well on your way to not only understanding your mobile channel better, but also building an attribution framework. From there, you can start to improve the user experience, generate personalised content, and even build a retargeting program to improve conversion.


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Bill Bruno is the CEO of Ebiquity’s multi-channel analytics consultancy Stratigent.








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