Rob Kabrovski
Rob Kabrovski 20 October 2017

Attribution - the challenge of upper-funnel measurement

Marketers are constantly looking for ways to accurately measure brand awareness for their company, tying upper funnel advertising efforts back to real-world ROI. Connecting the results of branding campaigns to actual business revenue can be tricky, but if looked at in the right way, advertisers can prove how an increase in brand equity positively impacts real business outcomes.  

Giving credit where it’s due
Attribution is about giving credit where it’s due, allowing brands to confidently allocate media spend and deliver maximum results on budget. For DR (direct response) activity, this means that we can assign actual sales to touch-points in the user conversion path – we can measure the action a person took when seeing an ad and whether this led to purchase. For branding campaigns, on the other hand, we are attributing based on impressions. While the user has seen the ad, there is no action – such as a click – that directly demonstrates intent to buy. The digital path to purchase has also become more complex, since consumers often engage with brands at several touch points before making purchases.

Driving users down the funnel
Overall, social advertisers are more successful by taking a full-funnel approach to campaign planning rather than focusing on individual stages. And while consumers usually don’t take a straight path to purchase, there is often a linear structure to their behaviour. In most cases, brands are wise to build out strategies that attract the attention of audiences, engage them, and eventually lead them to conversion. Building significant awareness of and trust in a brand is a vital part of the process, and it is therefore important that we learn how to accurately attribute impact to activity in the upper stages of the funnel.

By focusing on every touch point within the sales cycle, as opposed to just the last click, we can better understand the value of upper-funnel campaigns and attribute credit accordingly.

Measurement studies and intuition
While it is difficult to gauge the full impact of upper-funnel marketing tactics, there are a range of measurement studies available to help advertisers assess things such as ad recall, brand awareness, and message association. Whether using third-party partners such as Nielsen and Millward Brown or the platforms’ own solutions, these studies help advertisers gain access to measurable insights that can be used to optimise future campaigns.

At some point, however, we also need to take a step back and intuitively assess how, where, and why people consume content and how this in turn affects purchase behaviour. It has been shown that users spend an average of 30 minutes per day on some form of social platform, which continually informs their decisions. Consumers increasingly turn to social channels as trusted sources for information; after all, this is where people go to connect with friends and family, as well as to follow inspirational figures or experts in a certain field. It only makes sense that they also use these platforms to learn about new brands, services, and products.

The “attribution illusion”
A fully-fledged, perfected multi-touch attribution solution is every marketer’s dream. However, the idea that we can understand the value of every impression served and recreate that impact on a wide scale to drive cost-effective conversions is an illusion.

There are many challenges with attribution: off-line advertising efforts are not immediately trackable, and success is often a product of non-quantifiable factors such as price point, trends, and seasonality. As the industry continues to become more automated, attribution modelling will hopefully allow advertisers to shift budgets across the entire digital spectrum, driving customers through the funnel whilst maintaining the understanding that each user is different and will not always go through the same purchase path.



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