Two cents blog

How consumer behaviour changes broke online measurements

by Dave Mooney on 4 December 2017

Think about the last time you purchased something online, submitted an inquiry form or were looking for a product or service… Was the journey straightforward?

These days the average online purchase is preceded by as many as 5 to 10 interactions. Consumer’s online behaviour has broken the way we measure things and there is no longer a linear path-to-purchase. Conscious of the change, why do so many marketers and businesses still measure their digital activity as if it is? I’m talking about last click attribution, a model whereby 100% of the credit is given to the last click that directed a user to the point of conversion.

You aren’t alone if you’re using click attribution, there’s an estimate of 48% of marketers who still use last-click attribution to make important and expensive marketing decisions. The problem with its utilisation is that it presents a skewed view on the effectiveness of channels – and if you’re allocating budget and resources based on a model that favours some channels over others, chances are you’re not managing a balanced full funnel campaign.

Now think about the situation of buying a new television…

One day you see an ad (on the TV) for a TV you’re thinking about buying, and because this brand is on the ball you get delivered the same ad on Facebook shortly after (on your phone). The next day at work you get served a pre-roll YouTube ad for the TV again which sparks desire, so you decide to do some research. Opening Google (on your PC), you begin alternative evaluation through various product review websites and forums. Before you know it, there are 7 different tabs open and all the information you need to make a purchase decision. You give it a few days and then look at some price comparison websites (on your phone) being lead to the good news that you find the TV for sale on the brand’s website. You email yourself the link so you can buy it later that day when you get home (on your iPad).

In this example, is it fair to give all the credit to the email link on the iPad, because if it wasn’t for the price comparison websites you’d never have found the link in the first place? This leaves out the plethora of review tabs you opened that also impact your final decision or the formats that sparked desire and didn’t include a ‘click’ at all.

Both the situation and example both have a problem, and the solution lies in education.

Number one priority is understanding the problem and why the default model isn’t adequate (Google are on the record saying the last click is dead and the last click always makes them look good). There are more attribution models available which give you better insight into which channels are delivering the best quality traffic at different stages of the funnel. These are freely available in Google analytics which offers a range of bespoke/customisable models. In the near future, Google is releasing new tools which will allow for even more robust measurement. At the end of the day, if you understand why the current system is broken, and you understand what it is you’re trying to measure you’re in a much better position to completely understand the role of all of your advertising efforts.

As always, there is more than one way to approach a problem like this. The last click isn’t the only model out there, there are even ways to create customized attribution models within Google Analytics that better report on your objectives.  This is what I’d recommend as a starting point, but to do this you need a good understanding of your business objectives and your customer, their objectives, and ultimately their journey. It also involves good knowledge about the paths-to-purchase of marketing and advertising, and the role each element of an advertising strategy plays in driving users to the point of conversion. My recommendation would be that it’s an increasingly important consideration which needs careful thought, and if you’re not already on it, you should probably get cracking to stay ahead of the pack.

Dave Mooney is a Senior Digital Strategist at BCM

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