Auto Attribution: Are We Stuck in the Minor Leagues?

By David Metter

There are a lot of rookie players in the game when it comes to accurate attribution reporting (measuring your digital sales return on investment). More often than not, the task of obtaining valuable sales attribution metrics is put on the bench due to their roaring complexity. The problem is not the data. The data is there; we just need the right players in the game to tell us what to do with it and how it connects. Obscure conundrums of the digital world can be “attributed” to the ongoing development of new media channels and information available. This new-age, omni-channel playing field has resulted in an upheaval of brand interaction opportunities – leaving the one source that led to a sale increasingly difficult to pinpoint. Keyword being difficult, not impossible.

The concept of attribution itself is relatively simple. According to DrivingSales, “Attribution allows you to understand which elements of your marketing mix were involved in the purchase decision process, and ideally, which were the most effective.” The problem lies in securing truthful statistics. What use is big data when you can’t put it into perspective and draw logical conclusions? If we knew which touch point led to a sale, wouldn’t we have a much better gage on how and where to spend our ad dollars?

In Google’s recent article, they highlight one consumer’s 900+ digital interactions that took place preceding her final vehicle purchase.

·      The Good News: That’s 900 opportunities for dealers and manufacturers to engage customers with relevant, impactful information. Or in Google’s words, 900 chances to “be there and be useful.”

·      The Bad News: The more digital interactions that make up a single consumer’s online profile, the more difficult it becomes to identify which interaction was the tipping point that led to the purchase.

Experian’s Global Marketer Report highlights the current depth of the issue. “The biggest hurdles and key priorities for marketers this year are dependent on having accurate, enriched data, linked together in a central location for a complete customer view.” In 2016, 81% of marketers are still struggling to attain this information. “Proper revenue attribution is crucial to determining each channel or touch point’s role in the customer journey.” But the reality is too many marketers have very little, if any understanding of which investments are paying off.

So let’s get to the point. The answer to the title of this blog is an obvious YES. Overall as an industry, we are stuck in the minor leagues when it comes to correctly measuring ROI. It’s a huge problem for marketers. But I assure you there is hope. If we only had the reporting to know which interaction point transformed a browser into a buyer, we could make much smarter, more efficient decisions with our money.  

So, what are we going to do about it? First, manufacturers and dealers need to hold themselves accountable for seizing the limitless opportunities to connect. Second, ask yourself if you’re holding your vendors accountable for providing you with the attribution metrics that led to a sale? And I don’t mean how many clicks, impressions or unique site visitors your vendors have sent your way. That’s all great to know. But the major league players know that those executions drove traffic into your showroom and they know how many sales they got you.

CDK’s eBook, Automotive Moneyball says it best. “Leads, clicks, visits and VDP views all have value—as do inventory searches and hours & directions lookups. They just can’t tell the whole story when viewed in isolation. No single number can. They’re simply incomplete—pint-sized, partial pictures of the shoppers they represent.”

The major league players have the good stuff: clear, proven, and complete attribution models. However, it is up to you to key up your bases with ONLY major league vendors.

As the former CMO of one of the largest dealer groups in the country, I know from experience how difficult this can be. I also know that dealers are not getting the most out of their vendors for a variety of reasons - one being lack of time, another being the fear they may try and upsell you during a meeting...I get it. But the truth is, vendors are the experts (think of a player using better equipment) and their expertise is up for the taking - just make sure your scouts know how to draft the players with major league talent.