John Wanamaker, one of advertising’s early pioneers and often described as the father of modern advertising, famously said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Mr Wanamaker died in 1922, well before the internet and social media started to change the game. The rapid adoption of this technology in recent years has created much more focus on delivering tangible results. Mr Wanamaker would be amazed by the level of measurement and accountability that can be generated online. But are we seeing the whole picture and the right numbers?
At first glance accurately attributing which online marketing initiative is resulting in conversions doesn’t seem all that difficult a task. People either choose to click on a marketing message or they don’t. The messages that get interacted with are the ones that work. This is why search marketing has become the powerhouse it has.
However to get a full picture of return on investment it is necessary to think through other scenarios. For example a Facebook ad can trigger a search activity leading to a site visit where finally the consumer interacts with a banner ad that has been placed through ‘re-marketing’ (targeted ads on other sites based on your search patterns). In this case how does one assign credit? Is the Facebook ad? A search message? The re-marketing message? It can get complicated very quickly.
In truth it’s the whole journey that is important and this is where cross channel analytics come into play. Cross channel analytic tools, such as Marin Software, are used to understand and optimise the journey that your customers take through multiple digital touch-points. You can understand where people came from before they took the final conversion action, and this means you can work out how to shorten that path. These are the kinds of tools that brands like Macy’s, Gap and Netflix are now using to help them manage their online sales funnels.
As the online marketing space continues to evolve the range of places that a marketer can spend their budget is growing exponentially. Nobody wants to throw good money after bad so getting a good handle on analytics is vital. Better information allows better decisions. Decisions that can create important competitive advantages.
John Wanamaker had a vision for a world where it was possible to understand the value of every marketing touch-point. Somehow I don’t think he could have imagined just how complicated it would become to fulfil that vision. It is fortunate that there are clever people out there developing ways to help tame this complexity and give marketers the tools and insights they need.
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