Digital platforms marking their own homework
While we were busy obsessing about the UK’s general election on 8th June, it’s likely the British shopper generated some 107m retail transactions in store and online that day. So even if the world seemed distracted by events in Westminster, life reassuringly continued. For marketers wanting to know how best to influence the consumer’s journey to at least some of these transactions, help may be at hand. The mega tech-cum-media companies are now making a play in providing some answers. But should we trust them?
Attribution to sale has always been one of the more difficult areas of advertising. ‘Last-click wins’ is the model that has dominated the digital world, but does not tell us how someone arrived at that last click. Offline, numerous methodologies are employed but they too can only shed a little light on how a consumer came to a purchase.
Now Google is looking at ways of working this all out with a new tool called ‘Google Attribution’. The tool works by integrating with Google’s various ad solutions such as AdWords and Search, to get a complete view of performance across Google.
The increasingly eponymous AI is then used to determine how much credit to assign to each step in the consumer’s journey, whether from an initial search, right through to a last click. It analyses accounts’ conversion patterns to compare the paths of those who convert with those that don’t, so advertisers can get a clearer view of what’s working & what’s not, at least within Google.
Google’s offline offering is based on its store visit tech, which over the last 30 months or so has measured some 5bn store visits across 17 countries. Their plan is measure in store revenue by either retailers importing their loyalty scheme data into the system or through debit/credit card transactions via an unnamed third party.
Both Facebook & Twitter have also tried & are trying similar approaches by matching their user databases to retailer loyalty scheme memberships’ sales transactions, although the former has made a well-documented hash of many of its measurement currencies.
This kind of approach by the platforms is all well and good. However there are some significant issues. Firstly, marketers have to rely on the platforms’ tech and methodologies, which as in the case of Facebook, is not ideal. Secondly there’s the issue that since these systems are proprietary to the individual platforms, it makes it difficult to compare like-with-like between them, let alone with traditional media. But perhaps the biggest flaw is the fact that it’s the platform who has control of the measures, and it will be difficult to allay marketer fears that ‘inconvenient’ data & results might be excluded from any output.
The solution to this may lay in housing these kinds of approaches in neutral third party environments so that all stakeholders can access insight and results independently for their respective business requirements.