The theory and technology for gaining a better understanding of the impact of marketing spend is well ahead of implementation, a Travolution panel discussion heard.
The debate was chaired by Sylvain Piquet, director of business intelligence and account strategy director of Criteo, the event’s headline sponsor.
It looked at the evolving world of marketing attribution models, which exploit data in order to shed light on the activity that was most important in contributing to a sale.
Mark Varley, managing director of Manchester-based agency MEC, said that the thinking behind this area was increasingly sophisticated.
But he added: “A lot of people in the market are nowhere near in terms of sophistication and understanding.
“There’s always a paranoia that everyone is doing a fantastic job. Actually, the level of sophistication is not as high as you would expect.”
The panel agreed it is just as important to improve understanding of what contributes to a sale as to a failed sale, but this requires a huge amount of data processing.
“It’s not just about modelling what is succeeding, it’s modelling why there is a barrier to a sale being completed. Is the inventory not right, is it pricing or availability?” added Varley.
The rise of mobile and the problem of tracking customers as they move cross-devices makes attribution problems even more acute.
Elliot Pritchard, chief marketing officer of Travel Republic, said the best way was getting customers to log in but this does not capture all visitors.
“Log-in is the most robust way of identifying people. Unfortunately you’re not going to get everyone to log in so there’s a limit to that. There are ways of inferring it which is better in terms of reach but not always 100% accurate.
“The important thing to me is not cross-device, it’s personalisation. To do that we need to robustly identify who they are,” he said.
Varley said cross device attribution was more being pushed by agencies than clients.
“We go through phases of what’s new, what’s exciting and what’s the next big thing. Every year or two it refreshed and cross-device is now is a bit like the fornication habits of teenager – it gets talked a lot more than it’s actually being done.
“That’s where we are at the moment. The number of people actually doing cross-device attribution to a really high level is probably quite limited.”
Cian Weersinhghe, chief marketing officer of Secret Escapes, said it currently operates through email predominantly.
But he said the likes of Google and Facebook are working on cross-device attribution as they had to prove the value of mobile advertising.
This will allow firms to get a broader view of the market outside of those people who opt to log in.
Weersinhghe added knowing if marketing was driving incremental sales was his biggest challenge: “The word incrementality is the one that hangs over me like a haunting spectre.
“That’s something we need to crack because we use email to drive transactions and as soon as we start to use marketing I want to make sure it’s incremental and we are allocating the right money to the right channels so that if we turn the dials we get more money.
“We know last click’s not right to measure transactional attribution so we want to do something more sophisticated, but bearing in mind it’s just guidance without being causal.
“And we want to play around with more medium sized data, not big data, unlocking data in Google Analytics and our own platform to do some things especially around above the line impact.”