The days of firing generic one-way messages at consumers are far behind us, as rapid technical innovation pushes the marketing industry into the era of two-way conversation.

From the emergence of search engines and social networks, to the development of smartphones with lightning-fast connectivity, technological developments have opened up a dizzying array of channels, devices, and platforms through which consumers and brands can interact. The modern consumer traverses a tangled and ever-changing digital path, and brand-to-consumer communication has fragmented across channels such as email, search, display, mobile apps, social and video. Switched-on consumers expect relevant experiences, tailored to their unique needs and preferences, regardless of channel or device.

Innovation brings almost unlimited potential for brands to engage in valuable one-to-one consumer conversations, but is the marketing industry keeping up with the pace of change and taking full advantage of the possibilities available?

The promise of digital innovation

Rapid innovations in tech have brought a wealth of opportunity. Firstly, they help brands to understand consumers more deeply than ever before. Each and every online interaction leaves a data trail that reveals who the consumer is, what their interests are, and how they behave, as well as what they are likely to want in the future. This granular insight has given rise to a new generation of people-based marketing that enables brands to deliver meaningful experiences, personalised to individual needs and preferences. Data has transformed marketing from an art to a science, allowing brands to target consumers with laser-sharp precision that’s never been seen before.

Secondly, technological innovation provides new ways to reach consumers, wherever they are and whatever they are doing, across multiple channels, devices and platforms. Brands can target consumers with highly relevant messaging that is adapted not only to their personal preferences but also to real-time contextual information such as their location, device or channel of choice.

Finally, the online environment offers new methods for measuring the performance of marketing campaigns, helping brands understand what is working and what isn’t, with an unprecedented degree of accuracy. Rather than counting impressions or estimating how many consumers might have been exposed to a particular ad, marketers can now record the location, device, time, browser, and action of every online consumer touchpoint to understand its role in the customer journey.

Silos impede effective interactions

But despite the opportunities technology brings, the marketing industry has yet to reach this utopia where consumers are engaged in fully personalised and measurable conversations across disparate channels and devices. Tracking an individual as they move between channels, platforms, and devices is a complex task, requiring sophisticated tools and techniques. In fact, a recent study revealed only 6% of marketers have a complete view of their consumers across every touchpoint.

What’s more, marketing campaigns are still planned, executed, and measured in channel silos that typically give all the credit for a conversion to the last marketing touchpoint experienced by a consumer before he converts. This siloed approach not only makes it difficult to track the full consumer journey, but also leads to duplicate reporting caused by multiple channels taking credit for the same KPI event, such as a conversion or a purchase.

Advanced attribution drives the conversation

To make the most of the opportunities presented by technological developments, and ensure meaningful cross-channel conversations, marketers must keep pace with innovation and embrace multi-touch attribution (MTA). This highly accurate method of measuring the marketing and media performance assigns fractional credit of a specific KPI event to the marketing touchpoints (channel, placement, creative, keyword, etc.) along the consumer journey that influenced a desired action. Marketers can use these insights to make inter- and intra-channel budget optimisations, as well as optimisations to the consumer experience.

While all types of MTA track and de-duplicate the consumer journey across channels, and assign credit for a success metric to multiple touchpoints, there are many different models for marketers to choose from. These include rules-based methodologies, where humans decide how credit is allocated to various touchpoints, as well as algorithmic methodologies which are based on objective, statistical modelling and machine-learning techniques. The most effective MTA model will depend on a brand’s goals and business requirements, as well how it wants to use performance measurement to optimise its marketing campaigns.

To reach and engage consumers with the most effective messaging, marketers must understand the true value of each interaction along today’s complex digital path. In the era of the conversation, brands need precise measurement techniques such as MTA that drive meaningful engagement along the entire customer journey, whatever unexpected twists and turns it may take.

Ben Samuel

Ben Samuel


Ben Samuel, VP Sales at Nielsen Marketing Effectiveness..