Preparing for the Future: Why Real-Time Attribution is Essential

September 26, 2017 Anne Curtin

There’s a new book called, “The Great Acceleration” that describes how “the cult of speed marched out of Silicon Valley to conquer the world.”

In the book, author Robert Colvile reveals how, contrary to gloomier predictions, living in a faster age might be beneficial for us, both physically and mentally.

One thing is not debatable—the world is getting faster. This has implications for, well, everything—including marketers.

Moving Faster

Twenty years ago, the idea of real time didn’t exist. Most campaigns were planned on a quarterly or even annual basis. There were few media outlets. In the 1970s, an advertiser could reach 80 percent of women in the U.S. with a commercial that aired on CBS, NBC and ABC.

Not only is everything moving more quickly today, but the media landscape is increasingly fragmented. There are hundreds of TV channels and thousands of other way to reach customers and prospects. The same commercial would have to run three times a day on 100 TV channels to reach the same audience.

At the same time, consumers expect brands to be smarter and quicker than ever before in anticipating and responding to their needs. Did you know 71 percent of online leads are lost because companies don’t respond fast enough?

Getting More Granular

The good news for marketers is that, while the landscape is fragmented, it’s increasingly addressable. Channels such as display, paid social, search, digital TV, digital radio and even direct mail allow marketers to track and measure individuals in a way that simply wasn’t possible a short time ago.

These changing market conditions require a granular level of insight in near real time. Marketers who can access data about audience and performance most quickly can provide the most value to new and existing customers and engage them before they go to a competitor.

Shortening the Timeline

One of the main focal points of marketing attention today is the consumer journey and the time it takes to transform a prospect into a customer and eventually, a loyal brand ambassador.

The shorter the timeline from when an individual engages with your brand until they convert, the better. This means being able to act on the touchpoints along this prospect’s journey as quickly as possible.

According to MarTech columnist Scott Vaughan, “Increasing the velocity ... is a critical part of discovering, creating and retaining customers — job No. 1 for B2B marketers.”

Attribution in Near Real-Time

Monitoring and adjusting marketing and advertising campaigns in real time has become an aspiration for many brands. The thinking goes that if you can see something working, you should assign more resources at it. On the other hand, if something is going horribly awry, you should yank it quickly and use that spend for better ends.

It’s all about maximizing ROI and minimizing CPA. Getting the data about what’s happening quickly—and being able to mine your data—is critical for improving tactics and strategy.

Real Time Enables Right Time

The promise of near real-time attribution is not a myth or a fad – it’s a realistic possibility and a key capability for any marketer who wants to optimize their campaigns as quickly as possible.

Instant attribution might not be a realistic option yet, but it is possible to analyze and act on daily attribution data in today’s martech landscape. By using algorithmic attribution models that are updated every day, marketers don’t need to rely on outdated data for their analyses.

These real-time insights and optimizations can have a significant impact on campaign efficiency and ROI. Even a slight improvement can have huge benefits.

Preparing for the Future

Some have argued that real-time attribution shouldn’t be a high priority; and that because every channel works at a different pace, the length of time before each channel drives behavior varies dramatically. You have to give some channels time to do their work.

But this fact doesn’t reduce the importance of real-time data. Optimization needs to mirror the cadence of each channel. Having real-time data gives channel managers the information they need to optimize at the right time and frequency.

The future is a place where real time is more important. Today, it takes time for some channels to work. In the future, it will take less time. Everything will become faster with greater opportunities for optimization. Building today for a future like that is incredibly important.

Marketers should take this into consideration when evaluating martech vendors. Are they clearly built on a foundation of real time?

Independent analysis conducted by Nielsen based on actual client data confirms that a daily model rebuild can have a significant impact on ROI when compared to less frequent rebuilds.

In fact, the analysis showed that producing daily metrics based on weekly model rebuilds, as opposed to daily model rebuilds, can skew the accuracy of your attributed metrics by 9 percent, on average. And the difference was seen to be as high as 33 percent.

The Bottom Line

The successful brands of tomorrow are those that develop the capability to learn from their data today. In the future, right time will be real time, and real time will be the only right time.

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