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Purchase Attribution: Taking Marketing Attribution Beyond Channels

When marketers think about attribution, they most often do so in terms of channel performance – how the channel is performing relative to itself, and how much revenue it generates. There are a few key problems with this mindset, namely:

1. Measuring the effectiveness of each channel relative to itself means you’re limited to channel-specific metrics like open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, etc. and only tell a very small piece of the entire story.
2. Thinking that attribution can only be conducted in the context of channels leads to huge missed opportunities to identify other areas for engagement and growth.

It’s easy to forget that the dictionary definition of “attribution” is simply responding to a correlation between two events, or recognizing that Customer Action X results in Outcome Y. By broadening the way you think about and conduct attribution, you can open up a huge number of opportunities to reach your shoppers in more targeted and effective ways.

Consider purchase attribution – correlations that start or end with a specific buying action. If a shopper has bought from you even once before, not only will you have the data you need to personalize your communications, but you can also use what you’ve learned to influence how you engage with future shoppers, or even how you approach your merchandising strategy. And purchase attribution makes it possible to answer questions such as:

  • Which product categories are shoppers most likely to make their first or second purchase from
  • What product, when bought as a first purchase, is most likely to lead to customer loyalty down the line?
  • Which product categories do shoppers naturally go between for subsequent purchases? (For example, do shoppers who make a purchase from Category A typically make their next purchase in Category B?)

As you can imagine, uncovering these types of key purchase correlations gives you the intelligence you need to optimize your overall marketing strategy and produce more high-value, loyal customers. And you can understand how your campaigns are performing in terms of something other than channel metrics. Specifically, it becomes possible to:

Discover correlations that are surprising or hard to predict

It makes sense that a shopper who first browses sneakers might want to look at socks sometime afterward, but what about products that are seemingly unrelated? For example, one retailer used Zaius’s omnichannel attribution capabilities to discover an unexpected correlation between their Jewelry & Watches category and their Kitchen & Dining category – specifically, that shoppers who made their first purchase in Jewelry & Watches were highly likely to make their second or third purchase in Kitchen & Dining. When you conduct purchase attribution effectively, you can learn about correlations that are similarly unintuitive but that better inform your communications with your shoppers. (Not to mention, the merchandising opportunities here are virtually endless…!)

Target product-level and category-level promotions based on customer behavior

Because the retailer mentioned above learned that shoppers who made their first purchase in Jewelry & Watches were likely to visit the Kitchen & Dining category soon after, they were able to recommend kitchenware products to their shoppers who had recently bought jewelry. The ability to promote cross-category upsell is not only a good way to help shoppers discover new opportunities for purchase, but it also promotes more “well-rounded” loyalty by getting customers interested in everything your brand has to offer.

Create lookalike audiences for more targeted customer acquisition

If you know that shoppers who make their first purchase in your Jackets category are likely to end up being long-term loyal customers, you can use that information to try and reach out to prospective shoppers that are demonstrating interest in your brand’s jackets. Facebook and Google’s lookalike audience capabilities are great for acquiring these kinds of shoppers, and will allow you to be smarter about your customer acquisition.

Remember that because attribution is simply observing a cause-and-effect relationship, you’re missing a massive opportunity if you’re just thinking within specific channels (in the way that most marketers are doing today). Thinking about attribution in terms of which purchases correlate with long-term loyalty is key to smarter, more effective marketing – not to mention increased chances to engage with your shopper in a personalized and meaningful way, based on what you know about them and what you know about shoppers that are like them. And the more you’re able to recommend actions that take your shoppers closer to loyalty, the faster your shoppers will actually get there.

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