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Where Do Your Leads Come From? Attribution Models Paint a Clearer Picture for Online Marketers

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Virgin Atlantic and Del Monte recently announced major changes in how they measure online media – from search to social to display. Last-click to conversion is not the end all and marketers are looking across channels for answers. Traditional metrics for online media are meaningless without looking at the big picture, which should include attribution modeling.

To say that an ad that has not shown a conversion from last-click is a waste of media dollars is like saying billboards are useless and should be abandoned as a media entirely. Billboards and banners are just touch points along the way in a long branded journey.

Attribution Modeling - From Awareness to Conversion

There are multitudes of resources to sort out how channels like banners, search, email, and even social media contribute to conversions. Virgin Atlantic is working with TagMan, a company that provides smart container tags that house all conversion pixels and measure online activity across channels, in real time. TagMan aims to be instrumental in attributing credit to the best-click, rather than last click. Travel is a perfect example of an industry that desperately needs attribution modeling.

How often do consumers click on a banner and actually buy an airplane ticket? While users may not have converted on a single banner impression, additional tactics such as email, retargeting, time spent on social sites, and search all contribute to the final purchase decision.

Attribution is quite a literal term in this case. Marketers set up their attribution models based on media channel and assign a score for each interaction.  Depending on the advertiser, a visit to a brand’s Facebook page might be more heavily weighted due to their valuation of the engagement on the page, though  there may not be an physical action taking place such as a fan, like, or click. Conversely, banners could be assigned a lower weight as they might function more as an awareness tool for that advertiser.

Attribution tools take these weights into account and assign credit to each channel when a conversion occurs. In the airline example, a user who converted from a banner on a site like Expedia may have also been exposed to messaging via Twitter, direct email, display banners, a visit to Kayak.com, and several searches.  In Virgin Atlantic’s case, Tagman will analyze the impressions against the pre-assigned weights and give credit to the best-click, or most influential channel.  The other channels will receive partial credit for the conversion, depending on the value assigned to them.

Social media is quickly becoming the cool kid in media school, but even Warren Buffet has warned against the burgeoning social media bubble, “It’s extremely difficult to value social-networking-site companies,” he said at a conference in New Delhi, India. Social media’s survival as a marketing medium will depend on ROI and ultimately, attribution. Overdrive Interactive’s own SocialEye dashboard provides the tools to ensure that the social bubble doesn’t pop, by showing marketers how the sites contribute to their bottom line. So before you decide that your media buy isn’t working, consider an attribution model to determine which channels are really influencing your consumer and driving conversions.

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