We live in an age when customers look online for reviews, information and pricing before even considering a final purchase, but when it comes to e-commerce, 90% of purchases are still made in brick and mortar stores. It’s this reality that has frustrated marketers and brands alike leveraging digital channels and needing to prove its’ value. Expanding awareness to new customers today often means someone arriving through a social share. However, proving the attribution of a digital engagement to in-store purchase is near impossible. We all know it isn’t a single piece of marketing that drives a decision to purchase, it is the many small moments leading up to a purchase decision. Demonstrating this path is difficult and full of assumptions.

In a perfect world, marketers and brands would get the information indicating how the prospect stumbled upon the digital pieces of paradise created. We are getting closer to this perfect storm of attribution. However, in many social scenarios such as texting your friend a link, emailing, or sending a link via Slack, a “referrer” is not passed. Web analytics peg them as “direct traffic,” and are thus unattributed.

More and more of the marketing spend is being transitioned from so called traditional media to digital channels. FINALLY! As the digital space matures, the metrics that the folks paying the bills want to see haven’t been keeping pace. Facebook made an announcement recently around APIs they were releasing to push the industry past wishy washy metrics like ad views and clicks to more demonstrable proof points of effectiveness. At Arcane we have been leveraging Facebook’s reporting capabilities beyond ad views and clicks for awhile, but we are excited about this capability because the reality in the absence of this API that unless a sale happened online we really are measuring confidently engagement level and not pure dollars transacted.

Their announcement centered on tools to be made available to merchants to more effectively attribute conversions. The holy grail of ROI. The goal of the new API is to provide a view into what has been essentially a black box and prove online conversions in bricks and mortar stores. Agencies and merchants will be able to see what is happening in Vancouver and whether it’s the same or different in Ontario and Calgary and make modifications in real time as necessary. The offline conversions API will track purchases against a brand’s customer database and POS system. The effect of these tools is that using Facebook merchants can insert themselves into the store register *and* e commerce to show tangible results on transactions plus demographic insights to improve future ad campaigns.

These APIs are important because advocacy and awareness at the top of the funnel is important. But attribution has been a challenge to date. Save for the Facebook APIs let me explain why attribution is challenging for most brands:

ONE

The biggest factor isn’t external factors, it’s internal reality. How integrated is your corporate data?  Data sources need to be connected, and as the sources multiply this is getting more difficult. But, the more data the more realistic and important it is to understand the relationship between all awareness levers: organic, paid, web, email and the old standby search.

TWO

If you can start to integrate it, next question to ask “Is it the complete picture?” Do you have a meaningful dataset? Understanding how, when, and where your content is shared can make the difference between wasting time on programs that don’t move the needle, and making smarter, quicker decisions about programs that do. Micro-moments are replacing the traditional sales funnel. If data isn’t integrated key links in the shopping behavior is also missing.

THREE

Lastly, do you understand the data? There is no magic way to look at the information. Each client is different. Different metrics matter to different businesses. Each attribution model should look different.

Can you articulate what is driving customers through each stage of the buyer’s journey? There are ways to connect social to web traffic (Google Analytics integrates with social data) and web data to email (set goals in Google Analytics that correlate with your email programs).

Is there alignment across marketing programs? Do you discuss the big picture with the web optimization team? If you set up a meeting you likely could identify where the “direct” traffic actually originates. If you can do this, you can then identify the dark traffic which is step one.

Eric Vardon

Written By Eric Vardon