6 Reasons Site-Side Analytics Fall Short

April 11, 2019 Moira Freeman, Product Marketing Manager, Nielsen

Did you know the average marketer uses more than twelve different tools for campaign management, and some use more than 30?

As the Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic shows, we have an expanding array of tech at our disposal. This year’s chart includes over 7,000 analytics applications, customer relationship management (CRM) software, marketing automation solutions, data management platforms (DMPs), and more.

Site-side (a.k.a. client-side) analytics applications such as Google or Adobe Analytics are often part of the marketing stack, used to track, analyze and report on web-based performance data. However, many marketers feel there is still a gap when it comes to optimizing paid, owned and earned media and marketing campaigns across channels and devices.

Multi-touch attribution solutions fill this gap by providing marketers with a de-duplicated, cross-channel view of the consumer journey at the user-level plus optimized media plan predictions.

Customer Journey Measurement

Implementing marketing attribution may seem like a big step. In fact, one of the biggest barriers to adoption is the status quo. However, relying on a site-side tool for attribution could result in missed optimization opportunities and wasted media spend.

Read on for six reasons why site-site analytics tools fall short when it comes to attribution.

1. Site-Side Tools Only Measure Owned Media

Site-side analytics tools are used by digital marketers to measure page-level analytics and direct, organic and referral traffic to their owned media such as their website, social accounts, and applications on desktop and mobile.

However, marketing organizations increasingly allocate spend to owned, paid and earned media across addressable (display, video, social, email, affiliate, etc.) and non-addressable (offline direct mail, mobile in-app, etc.) channels.

Site-side tools can’t provide visibility into the performance of the marketing team’s entire portfolio. This undermines a holistic view by fracturing results into data silos, leading to inconsistent performance data, and making it difficult to understand each channel’s contribution to the bottom line. Without a holistic understanding of performance, you risk misallocating budget to underperforming channels.

With a broader scope of measurement, multi-touch attribution provides you with a single source of truth for marketing performance. Multi-touch attribution solutions measure paid and earned media in addition to owned media, so you can see the granular performance of your paid display, branded content, retargeting, and publicity efforts, not just traffic and page-level performance.

This breadth and depth of measurement enables you to make more informed decisions as you design campaigns and allocate spend across media, channels and devices.

2. Site-Side Analytics Tools are Click-Based

Site-side analytics tools and multi-touch attribution software measure consumer interactions with media differently. Site-side tools track owned media performance by measuring clicks and conversions, while multi-touch attribution measures paid, earned and owned media by measuring clicks, conversions and impressions.

Measuring impressions gives you visibility into which media a consumer was exposed to, even if they did not click it, by tracking the number of times it was served during the time the consumer was active on that channel.

For example, if an ad is served on a social media platform while a user is active and they later convert through the product’s website, multi-touch attribution counts the user’s exposure to the social media ad as an impression and allocates fractional credit for driving the conversion.

A site-side tool, however, could not track this exposure and the creative would not receive any credit. Leaving out the influence of impressions leaves you with an incomplete understanding of the consumer journey and the influence of your ads and marketing messages.

3. Site-Side Analytics Tools are Session-Based

Site-side analytics tools attribute credit based on sessions. These are the clicks and conversions that occur within an arbitrarily-defined period of time (often 30 minutes). If a consumer is about to purchase something online, walks away for 31 minutes, then comes back and purchases it, the conversion is attributed to a new session; the touchpoints leading up to the conversion do not get credit. But if the consumer purchases the item after 28 minutes, the touchpoints that occurred within those minutes do get credit.

Multi-touch attribution does not attribute credit using sessions because the path to purchase is variable, and can take days, if not weeks. These solutions measure engagement with media at the user level, allocating credit to each touchpoint (and the granular elements within those touchpoints) according to the influence it had on driving a conversion.

Unlike session-based methods, engagement-based methods ensure that you have visibility into the entire consumer journey, no matter how short or long.

4.  Site-Side Analytics Tools are Rules-Based

Site-side analytics tools provide attribution capabilities, but most use rules-based methods as opposed to algorithmic techniques used by most multi-touch attribution solutions.

Rules-based methods such as first- and last-touch arbitrarily assign 100% of the credit for a conversion to the first or last touchpoint in the consumer journey. This produces performance results that under- or overestimate the impact of certain channels.

For example, because last-touch methods attribute 100% of the credit to the last touchpoint, more credit gets allocated to channels which typically come into play later in the consumer journey.

These results are skewed toward organic channels such as direct, organic search, organic social, and referral instead of upper-funnel paid media channels, which tend to drive awareness earlier in the consumer journey. When you make decisions based on last-touch metrics alone, some channels that play a role in driving conversions can get overlooked entirely.

5. Site-Side Analytics Tools Lack Taxonomy

Taxonomy is a hierarchical classification of marketing and media dimensions (channel, publisher, placement, keyword, creative, etc.) which helps you analyze the performance of the media channels that matter most to their business at granular levels.

While taxonomy is central to multi-touch attribution, site-side analytics tools lack sophisticated, configurable taxonomies, making it difficult for you to align with your unique business structure and attribution needs.

Multi-touch attribution solutions that offer customizable, granular taxonomy structures allow you to track channel and media dimension data with unique identifiers at a more sophisticated and useful level.

6. Site-Side Analytics Tools Lack Optimization Capabilities

Site-side tools enable tracking and reporting, but lack the recommendation, predictive, and activation capabilities necessary to help you put insights to action. As a result, you miss out on opportunities to optimize campaign performance and media spend.

Advanced multi-touch attribution solutions provide optimization recommendations at a granular levels for each touchpoint. These predictive capabilities generate optimized media plan scenarios based on your spend and performance goals so you can compare and analyze various media plan scenarios before putting them into action.

Site-Side Analytics Fall Short

In today’s hyper-competitive world, marketers need to spend every dollar wisely. This means getting serious about attribution. While site-side analytics may be suitable for digital marketing teams dipping their toes in the attribution waters, they cannot support the entire marketing team.

Marketers leverage multiple platforms to reach and engage today’s multi-device consumers and invest across these channels and devices. Site-side analytics don’t provide the predictive insights necessary for teams to make informed campaign and ad spend optimizations.

As you consider adopting multi-touch attribution, think about your growth strategy and what kind of capabilities you’ll need in the future. Make sure you’re harnessing tools your team can grow into over time, not those that you’ve already mastered.

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