• Advertising

2019 Trends: Cross-Device Attribution and Multi-Touch Attribution Marketing

Team InMobi
5 min read
Posted on December 26, 2018

Is 2019 the year that cross-device attribution and multi-touch attribution marketing become the norm in mobile in-app marketing efforts? We believe that in the new year, multi-touch attribution models will finally be more popular than last-click attribution model, and that mobile marketers will more firmly quantify cross-device activity in their attribution models.

Note: This is the sixth and final post in our series on top trends for 2019. Previous entries covered transparency, OTT, in-app header bidding, data and machine learning.

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Moving Beyond Last-Click Conversions with Mobile Ads

In most digital ad strategies historically, the only marketing touchpoint that mattered was the final click. Campaigns were deemed successful only if they came from one particular ad or promotion.

This model emerged at the beginning of digital marketing and advertising, back before Google Analytics appeared on the scene. This used to be the easiest way to measure a campaign’s success, which is why it became so popular.

But, a number of issues with this attribution model have emerged and come to the fore. For starters, it fails to take the entire customer journey into account. It’s not likely that someone sees an ad from a brand they’ve never heard of before but then decides to click on their ad and then make a purchase.

More likely, someone needs to see an ad multiple times and also read about the company from multiple sources before they make a purchasing decision. Last-click attribution fails to take all this account and provide equal credit to all key touchpoints; multi-touch attribution modeling does factor in all of these touchpoints, however.

“Last click attribution as the sole measuring stick for digital performance advertising should go away within the next few years,” says Anne Frisbie, Senior Vice President of Global Programmatic and North America at InMobi. “Our belief is that this a very important trend that we hope plays out as quickly as possible. Last-click attribution was great when search marketing first launched at the turn of the century, i.e. compared to no measurement at all. But now, nearly 20 years later, it is clear that last-click attribution is not sophisticated enough and that it misattributes value back to media partners since many organic activities that marketers shouldn’t have to pay for are captured, i.e. they aren’t truly incremental.”

Last-click attribution models are also ripe with fraud. Because fraudsters know that a single action (the final click) is deemed immensely valuable, they will go to great lengths to generate false clicks or lay claim to others’ actions. By placing the final action in a wider context, multi-touch attribution helps to reduce fraud and provide advertisers with a safer and more accurate way to determine the effectiveness of their campaign-wide efforts.

“The ability to measure quality, combined with a deep understanding of which engagement metrics drive performance, will result in tangible outcomes for brands, transforming how advertisers define value in their media spend,” says Matt McLaughlin, Chief Operating Officer of DoubleVerify.

Embracing Cross-Device Conversions

Not only do most standard attribution models today only account for the final action, they also often only account for one device, be it a mobile device, laptop or something else. This is often problematic as well, as many people are using multiple devices throughout their research and decisioning process. These outdated models don’t tell marketers how single devices were assisted; they are unable to track conversions on other devices.

Here’s one example of how multiple devices can serve to assist conversions behind the scenes. Let’s say someone sees an ad for an interesting product on their smartphone on their way into work. During the day, this person uses their laptop to do more research on the item and the company behind it. In the evening, they watch videos about it on their tablet, and then right before bed they purchase it on their spouse’s mobile device. Without cross-device attribution, it would just look like someone with direct knowledge of that brand made a one-time purchase.

It’s also easy to envision similar scenarios in which online and offline marketing efforts work in tandem with each other to further company-wide advertising and marketing goals. Offline ads on bus stops or mall kiosk walls with QR codes are one example, although seeing an ad during a live television broadcast can also compel someone to learn more about that product or service on their mobile device. Combining sales data from loyalty programs with both online and offline advertising efforts is another example of this dynamic at play.

“It is very clear that clients are beginning to put in place cross-device attribution solutions that enable them to have a much better view across different devices (not just browser based digital placements) on the impact of their media. And, many of these clients are also executing offline sales attribution studies through their partners. We fully believe in cross-device attribution and full-funnel attribution efforts. Overall, the value of high impact in-app mobile advertising opportunities (such as video and other interactive experiences) are more accurately reflected when measured across the full funnel and via cross-device attribution, in-store visits and in-store sales not just last-click attribution or online web sales - so we think this is a very healthy change for the ecosystem,” says Anne.

Still, a lot of tech work is happening beyond the walled gardens to come up with universal Identifiers to measure and attribute conversions across devices. Walled gardens are using their own deterministic way to measure cross-device attribution for their campaigns, making it unfair for the rest of the ad tech players to use this technology.

InMobi is at the forefront of innovation in this space. Our goal is to solve for identity issues in ad tech, which can help solve the cross-device measurement problem beyond the walled gardens.

Cross-Device Attribution and Multi-Touch Attribution Marketing in User Acquisition

In 2019, performance advertising also will move towards multi-touch and cross-device attribution. User acquisition will be smarter and savvier in the new year too.

App install campaigns are, for the most part, all measured just on the last click currently. Cross-device attribution might not work for app installs, however, multi-touch models need to be picked up by marketers. InMobi is working to come up with models which help measure true incrementality and does not give credit to just the last click.

User acquisition campaigns not based on app installs - campaigns at the middle and bottom of the proverbial funnel - are embracing cross-device attribution methodology as we speak. For marketers whose customer touchpoints are across devices (telcos and auto companies are good examples here), measuring the same device conversions does not make sense.

Embracing the Future of Measurement and Attribution

While there have been some promising developments in this arena already, thanks in part to efforts from Nielsen via Visual IQ and from Google in the development of the mobile assist ratio, both cross-device attribution and multi-touch attribution are still very much in nascent stages at the moment.

But, come 2019, expect that all to change. In the new year, we confidently predict that advertisers and marketers will be much savvier about how they are tracking the effectiveness of their campaigns and determining how all efforts shape the larger picture.

Do you think multi-touch and cross-device attribution will take off in 2019? How about any of our other predicted trends? Let us know on Twitter or LinkedIn!

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