TagMeet: Speaker Q&A – Boden online acquisition manager Oliver Elliott on optimizing user journeys

In the run-up to the first ever TagMeet, we’re publishing Q&As with the event speakers. First up is Oliver Elliott, online acquisition manager at Boden, which is using TagMan to look for and optimize the ‘golden combinations’ in users’ paths to conversion, rather than just individual digital channels. Here, he explains more:

TagMan: Your presentation at the first ever TagMeet looks at how you and your colleagues at Boden are using TagMan to optimize paths to conversion rather than channels. Can you explain a bit about what that means?

Oliver Elliott: Optimising channels seems like a bit of a contradiction to me, or at least, a difficult thing to do in isolation of other events. You know the vast majority of customers use multiple channels to reach your brand so to optimise conversion goals you need to be optimising successful channel interactions in combination.

TM: What is your view of the last-click model of attribution, whereby only the channel that delivered the last click in any user’s journey to buying online gets all the credit?

OE: It’s one of many ways to attribute activity across multiple channels and can be helpful as long as there is awareness of what sits outside of that view.

TM: Why in your view, does so much of the digital industry work to the last-click model?

OE: It’s legacy and simplicity. I would love to work more with first click biased models but you never know with certainty when and where that first marketing interaction is. With online you are defining this artificially with your attribution window. Add offline and things get even more complicated (interesting) – was the first touch-point a prospect catalogue they received, a PR piece they read, word of mouth? You can argue further and further back with first click. With last click, you have the conversion, you attribute 100% to the closest event and there’s no room for argument.

TM: What is the impact of optimizing channels, rather than paths to conversion, in terms of an e-commerce business’ marketing strategy and execution?

OE: Using only a single attribution view you will have instances where co-operative channel interactions in successful paths to conversions are hidden. With a channel centric strategy you will naturally optimise away from these interactions as you are not attributing success to them. This places the whole path at risk and you’ll see a drop in contributing channels without being aware of the reason.

TM: With the ability to look at entire paths to conversion, what insights areBoden able to draw about its customers’ behaviours? And how is Boden shifting its activity to suit?

OE: We’re still trying to join the dots at the moment. The objective, as it’s always been, is to co-ordinate activity into integrated marketing campaigns. Currently we’re looking at high volume high impact initiator activities such as prospect catalogue mailings and attempting to analyse what downstream marketing interactions are required to increase the propensity for conversion.

TM: Based on your own experience, how would you recommend other clients go about moving beyond last-click models?

OE: The first step has to be about getting awareness of the picture outside of last click. Obtain visibility of assisted conversions for each channel – this is the conversion picture without any attribution applied, complete with overlaps. What is the difference between last click and assisted click? How much channel contribution are you not seeing because it sits outside of last click?

TM: What has been the reaction of your agencies and other partners to your use of TagMan and the shift away from pure last-click attribution?

OE: Fairly positive as the shift we’re making for CPA activities just now is to optimise with assisted conversions thus giving greater merit to the channel. Bizarrely, this takes quite a bit of getting used to… Of course, targets are toughened up accordingly and we keep a careful eye on attributed and overlapping pictures.

TM: How have you been able to justify your investment in TagMan in terms of ROI?

OE: The sell is differs depending upon the ‘customer’. The easiest financial justification is around inevitable dedupes that will be applied (analysed by marketing and applied by marketing). The benefit to the business, of course, extends far beyond this – with IT the sell is the saving to their time and increase in site speed. With our CRM and data team I can talk about the bigger objective of touch-point analysis.

TM: In your view, what is the short and medium-term future for online marketing attribution and what impact might that have on the development of the digital industry as a whole?

OE: The short term will be a move away from business models that favour last click to those that benefit conversion across the full customer path. Not that I see this as a huge concern at the moment but a slight shift can only help publishers to naturally innovate rather than being forced into a particular business model. Moving to the mid term, I’m hoping to see full integration of offline and all digital into the path to conversion. This should give us an almost surgical like ability to supply the correct marketing interaction at the correct time to maximise response goals with any campaign.

Next week, Hannah Kimuyu, PPC director at search agency Greenlight, on how it uses TagMan data to inform its understanding of paid and natural search results in users’ paths to conversion.

Find out more and follow the conversation at http://www.twitter.com/#tagmeet

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