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marketing attribution trends

It’s no surprise to see more and more marketers explore and invest in attribution modeling in 2019 and beyond. After all, the B2B buyer’s journey has become increasingly complex, as each prospect engages with a number of digital touchpoints on their path to becoming a customer. It’s imperative for marketers to understand their customers’ journey and the role that each touchpoint plays in an eventual purchase — and marketing attribution is the one tactic that helps them do so.

In today’s blog post we take a look at the current state of marketing attribution, and the latest marketing attribution trends you should be aware of. Let’s get into it!

What is marketing attribution?

Before we get into the latest attribution trends, let’s review the definition and main objectives of marketing attribution.

Marketing attribution refers to a system used to determine how each touchpoint in a customer’s journey contributes to an eventual conversion. From there, a marketing attribution model will assign a specific percentage of attribution to each touchpoint. By assigning credit to each touchpoint, marketers are able to better assess and optimize the various campaigns and channels they use to engage their target audience.

Here’s where it gets a little more complicated. There’s no singular model for successful marketing attribution. In fact, there are more than a handful of attribution models marketers use to track their customer journeys. 

The three main types of marketing attribution are as follows: First-touch attribution, last-touch attribution, and multitouch attribution. First-touch attribution assigns 100% of the credit to the first touchpoint in a prospect’s path to conversion. Last-touch assigns all the credit to the last touchpoint. Multi-touch attribution models disperse credit among the many touchpoints in a prospect’s journey to converting.

Trend #1: Multi-touch has become the most common form of attribution model.

As we stated above, there’s some debate over which marketing attribution model is best. Given the variety of options, it’s easy to see why only 22% of marketers believe they’re using the right attribution model (source).

Many businesses have stuck with a first-touch or last-touch attribution model, but they’re no longer in the majority. Over the past year, multi-touch attribution has become the predominant form of attribution modeling (source):

  • Of B2B marketers who have adopted marketing attribution, 45.3% use a multi-touch attribution model. Comparatively,  43.2% use first-click attribution and 24.% use last-click attribution.
  • 44% of marketers say they plan to implement multichannel attribution within the next year or two. 

Make no mistake about it — the increasing reliance on multi-touch attribution is a good sign for the future of B2B marketing. One-touch models (first-touch and last-touch) have certain benefits, but they don’t paint a wholly accurate picture of a multi-faceted buyer’s journey. Multi-touch attribution models are much more realistic. They recognize every channel and piece of marketing content a prospect interacts with. 

Compared to first- or last-touch, the only drawback to multi-touch attribution is its complexity. In other words, it’s easy to assign 100% attribution to a blog post that started a customer’s journey. It’s also easy to credit the webinar they attended right before conversion. But, assigning credit to each touchpoint in between is a more complicated process.

The good news is, modern technology has simplified the process of implementing a multi-touch attribution model. Free tools like Google Analytics enable marketers to track multiple touchpoints and even create custom attribution models that let users assign attribution to individual channels. Considering that 41% of marketers say custom attribution modeling is very effective (source), we’re likely to see more and more marketers embrace a multi-touch attribution strategy.   

Trend #2: Attribution technology has impacted marketing budgets.

In a recent survey, marketing leaders were asked how attribution technology has affected their marketing spend across the channels they use. While responses varied, the survey results showed a general increase in spending on channels like content marketing, paid search, and organic search. Conversely, paid social and display advertising saw a general decrease in spending (source).

What do these results mean? For one, they show that attribution modeling has helped marketers develop a better understanding of SEO/SEM and content marketing ROI. But on a broader level, surveys like this one point to a trend in how marketers will allocate their budgets moving forward. 

Marketing attribution is paving the way for more strategic allocation of money and resources. By optimizing their spending based on attribution metrics, marketers are able to ensure that every dollar they spend is actively driving conversions. 

Trend #3: Cross-device attribution moves into the spotlight.

While the rise of multi-touch attribution is promising, there’s much more progress to be made. Modern customers don’t just use multiple channels to engage with a brand before the point of conversion. They also use multiple devices. In fact, Google reports that a majority of online consumers who use multiple devices start their purchase on a smartphone and complete it on a PC or tablet (source).  

Marketers who implement an attribution model are beginning to recognize the importance of tracking customer behavior across multiple devices. To illustrate the value of cross-device attribution, let’s look at a hypothetical scenario:

A person clicks on a paid advertisement for a security software on their smartphone. They’re intrigued, and later they visit the company’s blog and social media feeds while using their tablet. The next day, they use their laptop to visit the company’s website and submit a free trial form.

In the above scenario, a standard attribution model may only recognize the final touchpoint of the prospect’s journey: they went to a website and filled out a form. Meanwhile, cross-device attribution would recognize the prospect’s previous actions on their smartphone and tablet, which led them to the point of conversion.

The question is: How does one identify and track users across different devices? As you might expect, there’s no easy answer. But, there’s been a strong push among marketing software providers and data management platforms to solve this cross-channel conundrum. As technology becomes more adept at tracking users across devices, we should expect to see cross-channel attribution become the norm in the coming years.

Trend #4: Attribution has driven more businesses to consolidate their sales and marketing technology stacks.  

Attribution modeling provides more insight into the buyer’s journey and allows for more accurate, comprehensive reporting. But, marketers fail to fully realize these benefits when their technologies do not integrate with those used by their sales department.

For example, let’s say your marketing team uses a specific tool to track your various channels and assign attribution. If that tool does not integrate with your CRM, important prospect and customer data become siloed, making it more difficult to analyze and create comprehensive, accurate reports.

Consolidating your sales and marketing technology stacks yields a number of benefits that contribute to better marketing and sales alignment. As marketing attribution becomes more ubiquitous, fully integrative technology stacks will become even more prominent among sales and marketing organizations. 

Trend #5: More job titles include “attribution”.   

Marketing attribution is not a minor undertaking, nor is it a simple set-it-and-forget-it tactic. In fact, it’s on its way to becoming one of the most essential components of a data-driven marketing strategy. As businesses recognize this development, the demand for employees with specific expertise in the realm of marketing attribution rises.

Unsurprisingly, there’s been a recent surge in job titles related to marketing attribution. Search any online job board, and you’re likely to find a number of open positions calling for a “Marketing Attribution Analyst” or “Attribution Specialist”. It’s likely that over the next decade, marketing departments across all industries will include entire teams dedicated to marketing attribution. 

Final Thoughts on Marketing Attribution Trends

Marketing attribution is far from a fully-realized concept. It’s a tactic that continues to develop and improve, as marketing technology advances towards the idea of a “perfect” attribution model. But, the trends we discussed today prove that the buzz around marketing attribution is much more than flash-in-the-pan industry hype. 

If you have yet to explore the value of marketing attribution, now’s the time to start. A word to the wise: The benefits of marketing attribution aren’t always immediate. It’s likely that you’ll experiment with a number of attribution models before you find the one that works for your organization. Work out the kinks now and you’ll stay ahead of the curve as marketing attribution continues to evolve into a vital business strategy. 

To learn more about how ZoomInfo can dramatically scale and improve all aspects of your go-to-market strategy, contact our sales team today. We offer the most intelligent B2B contact database on the market.

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