22 Oct Marketing Attribution in the Age of Big Data

by Victor Szczerba, CEO Yeti Data


Today’s marketers have access to more data about their customers than ever before. The explosion of mobile, social, and online channels provides a treasure trove of potential customer intelligence.  This should be a golden age for marketers.

But there’s a catch.  The collision of so many incomplete, overlapping, inconsistent data sets makes it very hard to see what is going on, and even harder to figure out what to do.  To provide value to their companies, marketers need to efficiently turn all that data into reliable insights; and use those insights to drive actions that deliver results.

The need for actionable marketing intelligence has driven the demand for Marketing Attribution.  Forrester defines Attribution as “The practice of attributing credit to all marketing exposures that led to a conversion event.”  In other words, it’s the process of sorting through all the Facebook posts, banner ads, search results, and other touch points that a customer might encounter along the journey through awareness to conversion, and figuring out how much credit each one should get for influencing the customer.  Attribution is the ultimate form of actionable marketing intelligence.  If you know what works and what doesn’t, you know what to do.

For a long time, “Last Click” attribution, where the last thing a customer does before converting gets all the credit, has been the dominant method.  And amazingly, it still is.  Google surveyed over 600 marketing professionals from across many industries, and found that fewer than 15% believe that “Last Click” attribution is very effective. But a majority of them are still using it, even though they don’t believe it works.

Clearly there is a need for a better way.  Whatever solution you choose, it should be grounded in three principles:

  1. Focus on the Individual
  2. Follow the Customer Journey
  3. Count what Matters (not just what is easy to count)


Focus on the Individual

All analysis and decision-making must be grounded on the best, most accurate, complete, and up to date picture of your customer that you can obtain.  Working from broad segmentation models is not going to deliver accuracy.

To make your view of the individual as complete as possible, it’s important to use all of what you know, integrating every available internal and external data resource.  And it is vital to be able to quickly analyze large numbers of individuals to detect the patterns that reveal attribution.

Follow the Customer Journey

Customers are not static, and they are most definitely more than the last thing they did before buying.  To understand them, you must know where they’ve been and how they got there.  Every customer is an evolving story, not a fixed demographic.

Count What Matters

While knowing your customer is essential, it is not enough.  To make your customer knowledge actionable, you must also know which channels and programs have the greatest impact on engagement, conversion, and loyalty.  In order to achieve this you need tools that let you organize all customer journeys around specific events to identify the correlations that can reveal attribution.

By focusing on the individual, following the customer journey, and determining attribution, you can develop marketing programs that delight customers.