Multi-touch attribution (MTA) was once the poster child of marketing trends. Its grand promise? Implement MTA and a marketing team could unlock a consumer’s much-desired “path to purchase.” Via tracking users across devices and ads, using consumer identity and clicks to determine what led to purchase, measuring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns seemed not only probable but a definite probability. But flaws abounded: largely because half of all online purchases have two or fewer clicks prior to purchase. Throw in missing cookies and gaps in third-party data, the models and measurements quickly become inaccurate.
But multi-touch attribution isn’t without its benefits: It can surely be a means by which to gauge consumer experience. But when it comes to measuring the contributions of an ad, it’s a flawed system. Add the new privacy regulations hitting marketers — including the GDPR in the European Union and the CCPA stateside, consumers can “opt out” and the precise tracking needed for MTA to be considered essentially effective goes out the window.
So where does that leave marketing teams? There are viable options to accurately measure marketing effectiveness, each with proven measurement methodologies. For brands moving away from click-based attribution methods, options include A/B testing, that when designed and executed properly can provide a good measure of a campaign’s incremental contributions. The downside? It's slow, expensive and not the easiest to manage. And it has some risks too — mainly in the fact that a brand must turn off (or turn down) marketing to get a more accurate read.
Another option? Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM). This methodology measures digital and traditional media, both via online and offline outcomes, and controls for non-marketing factors impacting sales. It, too, has downsides. Namely, it’s slow and expensive, and is difficult to take action on because the guidance is highly summarized. So what's a better option for marketers to consider?
Adopting an Agile Marketing Approach
One method to adopt for a marketing team is to implement an agile marketing approach to their processes. Opportunities are aplenty for marketing teams who draw from the agile methods used by successful technology companies to build or enhance products: advantages in go-to-market speed, lower risks, and improved measurement and intelligence.
For those unfamiliar with agile marketing methods, some of the key tenets of this process are:
- rapid iterations,
- frequent testing and data-driven decisions,
- experiments to define and refine a “minimally viable approach,”
- strong alignment with the market and end customer,
- collaboration and planning within smaller teams with strong accountability, and
- utilization of a strong foundation of measurement as the guide.
With an agile marketing plan in place, speed and flexibility are critical components. Getting to market first is, of course, a major advantage, and to that end agile companies focused on the core offerings allow them to get to market fastest, with viable and valuable customer offerings. Additionally, by listening to the market and adapting quickly and flexibly, agile marketers can succeed by iterating in rapid test and measure cycles for near-constant improvement. Also critical to an agile marketing approach is a groundwork for measurement. The feedback cycle is crucial for persistent improvement, and now more than ever, cross-channel measurement approaches are needed for marketers to see the full reveal.
How then can a marketing team transition to an agile marketing approach? Three primary areas can lead to success:
- creating a scrum team,
- pursuing rapid testing and measurement cycles, and
- scaling with a measurement foundation.
A scrum team is vital to an agile marketing approach. Typically comprised of three to five people who plan, execute and measure results, the roles include:
- Marketing Owner: who owns market and business strategy inputs, a.k.a. the voice of the consumer;
- Scrum Master: someone who is actively involved in the planning, coaching, and facilitating of the marketing process; and
- Additional team members: who represent marketing channels, analytics and data sources.
With the scrum team assembled, minimally viable campaigns (MVCs) that align with business goals and KPIs become the focal points. Two-week “agile sprints” are essential — a team runs fast-paced, in-market execution and tests to identify best methods that can be translated into full-scale works. Most critically, this decreases both time and expense on losing propositions.
Lastly, agile marketers rely on flexible cross-channel measurement — a system that keeps pace and accounts for cross-channel contribution of any capacity.
Perhaps most important, unlike multi-touch attribution, a more agile approach is accurate, extremely fast, highly detailed, and measures both digital and traditional media with both online and offline outcomes. This is the foundation for success in guiding the reads of performance for each and every test.
It’s not too late to change your strategy. Yes, if your brand still relies on a multi-touch attribution approach to measure marketing effectiveness, there is still time to consider a new approach. While obstacles to MTA-based marketing measurement have weakened its effectiveness, a more agile approach is not only possible, but the clear-cut best path to success. Become a more agile marketing operation to guide continuous improvements, confidence in marketing results, and most importantly, better business results.
Matt Voda is the CEO of Optimine Software, an industry leader in cloud-based cross-channel marketing analytics and optimization. Matt brings deep experience and a proven track record of cloud-based technology and analytics success to his role at OptiMine. Matt joined OptiMine from United Health Group where he led consumer marketing within the $40B Optum division, developing and deploying sophisticated analytics-driven approaches to yield significant gains in engagement and ROI. Matt also spent 11 years at Digital River as VP of Product Management developing the world's first cloud-based e-commerce platform, a high scale enterprise offering handling over $30B in e-commerce transactions, across 80 countries.