Brand Activator/ Analysis & Measurement

Here Comes Big-Data-Enabled Multitouch Attribution

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by Mike Azzara
Chief Content Strategist
Stein IAS (Americas)

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Article Highlights:

  • With the right data, you can discover which channels led a customer to be exposed to your message.
  • Multitouch attribution is approaching an inflection point.
  • Attribution modeling is one of the linchpin technologies needed to make sense of data.

As a marketer, you’re no doubt aware that the digital networks enveloping us all get more precise and more sensitive every week.

With the right data and the right analytics, your ability to know the channels where a customer was exposed to your message, as well as how much each channel contributed to an eventual sale, improves immeasurably. That’s pretty much the definition of multitouch attribution (a.k.a. fractional attribution, as my colleague Ted Kohnen discusses in this post from March).

As a guy who has followed technology professionally for more than 32 years, I’ve come to recognize patterns that show something’s brewing. So I’m writing today to alert CMO.com readers that multitouch attribution is approaching an inflection point.

I came across this particular pattern in the course of researching technology industry M&A activity last month. In the words of Web site AdExchanger.com, multitouch attribution vendors were “flying off shelves” in the second quarter of 2014. They wrote that headline when Rakuten, Japan’s e-commerce giant, acquired U.K.-based DC Storm as yet another technology to add to its affiliate marketing platform.

But in the couple of weeks before Rakuten’s announcement, Google bought Adometry (for a rumored $150 million) and AOL bought Convertro (for an announced $101 million). All of these companies use some combination of rich data and algorithmic analytics, with varying degrees of expert live-human analysis, to do the attribution modeling (the more human involvement, of course, the better the insights, but the less automated and, therefore, scalable the activity).

A related deal, at roughly the same time as the others, was data broker Acxiom’s $310 million purchase of LiveRamp, which (according to The Wall Street Journal) specializes in helping firms tie together consumer data from the physical, online, and mobile worlds--e.g., I’m the same guy who browsed Best Buy’s site this morning, visited my local store this afternoon, and hit the mobile app while there.

Big data technologies raise many questions about privacy and ethics, as I first wrote way back in April and in several posts since. Multitouch attribution technology is clearly troubling in that regard, so marketers need to take care when they use it.

But use it you must. Again, as a long-time tech watcher, I’m here to tell you that that steadily improving digital envelope I mentioned in the first sentence of this post is inexorably driving the world’s economies from “make and sell” to “sense and respond” business models, a concept I first heard applied to the media and entertainment industry in this EY research report a year or two ago. It’s happening to our industry first for obvious reasons, but the same digital transformations are rapidly progressing throughout all the industries we represent.

And attribution modeling is one of the linchpin technologies needed to make sense of the data that’s being sensed to yield insights that drive the response.

About Mike Azzara

The authors of the Brand Activator blog are from Stein IAS (Americas), New York, BtoB Magazine 2013 Agency of the Year.

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