Closing the Attribution Loop: Innovation or Expense?

Nov 2, 2021

By Mike Rowan

The marketing industry relies heavily on analytics, and to stay on the cutting edge, we need even more specialized reporting. To achieve this, marketers and sales teams need to “close the loop” — meaning communicate about the quality of leads and their sources. Attributing the best and worst leads to a campaign gives marketers the tools we need to optimize campaigns and prove our value to clients. 

The Need for Conversion Tracking

Right now, there is a level of specialization that’s going on in our industry to track digital marketing conversions both online and in-person. For example, Walmart, Target, and other large retailers have created Retail Media Networks to utilize the ‘Store as Media’ channel. The retailers charge brands for advertising on the retail media networks and then track the performance of the advertising to determine the impact on sales in the store. To continue to sell advertising to the brands, the retailers need to prove that the advertising works, requiring the necessary analytics to track. 

With innovation like this, there really is a scramble to close the attribution loop. That includes experiential and the more creative. We have the ability to track on a SKU level to try to close the attribution loop to attribute display campaigns that end up converting via foot traffic in-store. 

It’s beneficial both for marketers and brands to know which campaigns and strategies are leading to the most lead conversions and sales, including sales that don’t take place online. Not only does this improve our strategy going forward, it also provides key data on the type of consumers that we’re attracting. 

When we generate hundreds of leads for a company, attribution can also answer simple questions, like are you receiving good leads? Without knowing the full picture, clients can’t always answer that. That leaves us to draw a line in the sand and say that in order to optimize the campaign and to give you good marketing advice, we need to know if these leads are worthwhile.

Having Hard Conversations

Most clients that I talk to continue to be scared to take that quantum leap. For example, when I suggest simple updates that would provide more opportunities for KPIs and dramatically improve our attribution capability, they stop the conversation there.

To keep up with the growth in our industry, the goal should be to clean up the relationship between advertising and sales. There’s a lot of confusion going on, and I think attribution is the key. The problem isn’t that closing the attribution loop will be very hard to pull off. It’s doable, but it may come with some upfront costs. The real challenge will be having the hard conversation about why this is a valuable service.  Naturally, when faced with a hard solution that costs brands money, sometimes the initial reaction is, “I don’t even want to know about it.” 

Is Closing the Attribution Loop Worth the Cost?

When marketing B2C, it’s fairly easy to close the attribution loop. It’s even surprising to me how simple it could be to attribute revenue and sales beyond button clicks. In about 30 seconds, we could place a UTM to track the click from a client’s website to the retailer’s website.

Closing the attribution loop isn’t only valuable for B2C companies. As it stands, only 20% of B2B brands are successfully tracking their marketing ROI, leaving a lot of valuable data unreported and unanalyzed. Especially when it comes to longer sales cycles, B2B companies need to know why potential customers visit their site, why they return, and ultimately what leads to closing a deal.

These solutions, which may seem expensive at first, could save a significant amount of your marketing budget and bring in higher-quality leads. Understandably, no one wants to take a leap of faith — and a potentially expensive one at that — if it won’t work. That’s why it’s our job to show our clients how closing the attribution loop will work. And when businesses are ready to take that leap, we’ll be ready to guide them forward.