As the old marketing adage goes, “half my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.” Coined by John Wanamaker over a hundred years ago, this statement still holds true for much of digital marketing today.

It underscores an age-old need for marketers to understand: in which areas they are spending money to drive traffic that is genuinely valuable. This has always been the goal of businesses seeking to optimise their marketing spend, and is especially challenging when offline channels, such as outdoor marketing or billboards, are taken into consideration.

Obviously digital channels offer an advantage given that any interactions can be tracked and represented in a more tangible way. This is one reason why many companies are pushing hard to digitise offline experiences – in the hope of gaining insight into the user journey purchase process that reside in all click trails leading to check out. The more info and insight you collect, the more friction or effort can be removed from the transaction. This is the digital experience nirvana – personalised and effortless engagement.

The challenge of cross-channel marketing

But in an age where marketers are trying to reach consumers via a proliferation of touchpoints, it becomes difficult to discern which one has made the difference – that’s the quandary of cross-channel marketing, which has ultimately established the need for cross-channel marketing attribution. This is sometimes referred to as The Stone Cutter’s problem – with so much effort and so many blows, it becomes near impossible to tell which blow delivered the forced to crack the stone in half.

Cross-channel marketing attribution is critical in many industries (retail is a typical example, but also in the case of manufacturing and distribution) and the web continues to be the great disintermediator that both compounds the issue and offers solutions.

To be successful in cross-channel marketing attribution requires a few things. First you need to aggregate and obtain visibility of all data. You then need to create a model to understand which touchpoint or series of touchpoints was most influential – correlating the data with outcomes – in a big data analytics play. This is the world of the “marketing quant” guys – there are a variety of attribution models and opinions about the pros and cons of each.

Currently to do cross-channel marketing attribution, brands are leveraging a specific category of software which allows them to automatically collect data from multi-channel sources (tablets in the hands of store associates, Point of Sale terminals, etc.) and apply any one of many different models to analyse and determine the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. As this software evolves, and attribution becomes a core part of the marketing skillset, organisations are better able to create and deploy seamless digital experiences.

Four benefits of Cross-Channel Marketing Attribution:

  1. If there’s “money grabbing” and in-fighting in the organization vying for marketing dollars, it provides an objective way to make decisions, as opposed to a political means.
  1. It aligns with a customer-centric marketing approach. By having a Cross-Channel Marketing Attribution practice in place, organisations will have a clear view and practical validation that they have the customer journey understood.
  1. It gives you a clear view of where you should put your investment for the greatest return. These days there are such varied types of journeys that are often far reaching from a time horizon perspective. It’s becoming impossible to understand how best to support them manually.
  1. It shows you how to best align content to make channels profitable – for example, organizations have struggled to make social channels such as Pinterest relevant and influential in the sales process. With Cross-Channel Marketing Attribution, organizations can correlate social channels to certain purchases, by certain customer demographics, providing an understanding of what is needed to use social strategically to optimize sales or other key customer journeys.

Bob Egner

Bob Egner


VP Product Management, Episerver