Attribution Leads To Falloff In Email Spending: Study

Marketing attribution is an effective tool. But it may be slowing down email growth. 

As a result of attribution, only 28% of marketers are increasing their email budget this year compared with 41% in 2016, according to “The State of Marketing Attribution 2017,” a new study by AdRoll for Econsultancy.  

Worse, 32% are decreasing their email budgets, versus 24% last year. And attribution is again to blame.

However, this seems to be part of a general flattening. 

Of the channels cited in the survey, only display advertising is seeing a modest increase after attribution: 41% are increasing their spend, up from 40% last year.

Budgeting for other channels — paid search, content marketing, social media marketing, social advertising and affiliate marketing — is also being increased by fewer companies.

Has attribution proved to marketers that these channels don’t work?

That depends on how you view it. Among the companies that were polled, almost 100% say that optimizing the media mix is their main goal for conducting attribution. And 60% call it a high priority.

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In addition, almost all cite that they justify digital spending as a goal. 

But 70% admit that they don’t "action" the insights they get from attribution. In contrast, 57% agreed with that statement last year.

The study attributes this problem to the "proliferation of touchpoints and data — from an ever-increasing number of marketing tools."

What’s more, only 28% say attribution has led to an increase in spending on some channels. But 26% say it has resulted in a decease. And 32% believe there has been no impact. Ten percent have seen a decrease across all channels.  

As to how they attribute, 44% rely on the last click, and 39% on the first click. Both numbers are down from last year, but nothing else even comes close.  

Only 18% use the algorithmic method, and 18% linear. And 15% utilize time-decay.

AdRoll surveyed 987 practitioners in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Of the marketers surveyed, 64% include email in their attribution efforts. That makes it the most attributed channel on the client side.

In contrast, 73% of the agencies include email. But 85% of these agencies also throw in display advertising, and 77% paid search. Another 70% put in social media advertising.

North American and European firms are most likely to focus on email — both are near 90%.

The biggest hurdles when attempting marketing attribution are:

  • Lack of knowledge — 59%
  • Technology limitations — 53%
  • Lack of time — 40%
  • Internal politics — 21%
  • Not convinced about business case — 9%
  • We won’t use the insights — 7%

Not that these challenges are stopping anyone. 

Of the marketers polled, 39% conduct some kind of attribution modeling and analysis on most or all campaigns, compared with 31% last year, and 28% do this for some campaigns. 

The number is higher among North American companies — 51% do attribution modeling, beating Europe (39%), Australia (34%) and Japan (37%).

European marketers are most likely to say “no, but we’re thinking about it.”

But the number drops on the agency side: Only 13% carry out attribution for the majority of campaigns, down from 22% last year. 

The main benefits of attribution? Better allocation of spending across channels (70%) and better understanding of how digital channels work together (64%) are the top ones. The latter is more of an imperative in Europe.

There was a slight dip in confidence in agencies — 34% believe their agencies are impartial when carrying out attribution; last year, 38% said so. And 48% are somewhat confident, down one percent from last year.

The study concludes that the respondents are “generally confident.” However, it observes that agencies’ use of attribution “has been compared to students marking their own homework.”

The possible harm? “They may consciously or unconsciously give more credit to their own channels and justify larger budgets for those channels accordingly — with the knowledge that they stand to gain greater commission from certain types of media spending.” 

Here are a couple of additional tidbits:

  • Japan is most likely to include content marketing: 65% do so, in contrast to only 48% of North American respondents.
  • The percentage of those citing technology limit grew from 41% last year. 
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