Retailers want to know how they can attract new customers, how they can increase customer loyalty and, how they can increase customer lifetime value.

These are the conversations that are happening in board rooms throughout the industry. But affiliate marketers themselves don’t necessarily have the strategic view that enable them to answer these questions.

By providing complete transparency of the consumer journey, properly implemented multi-channel attribution will deliver the answer to these questions. It will help affiliate marketers push the conversation up the chain, demonstrate a rounded picture of the value of affiliate marketing, and get hold of the answers they need to determine the direction of their marketing strategy.

In other words, multi-channel attribution will help identify the mixture of marketing channels and tactics to meet actual business objectives, rather than channel-specific ends.

Affiliate Marketing and Attribution

Multi-channel attribution has allowed people to understand that affiliate marketing isn’t just about enticing existing customers to come back, or drawing in new consumers. Affiliate marketing isn’t the solution to a specific list of business problems, it’s not the case that any type of marketing is always the solution to a specific problem.

Affiliate marketing is capable of achieving a multitude of things – but the right publishers need to be used, following the right strategy.

For example, say a retailer wants to attract more new customers. Thanks to data from our attribution and insights platform, Cadence, we know that working with content publishers is an effective way of doing just that: 87% of the attributed revenue brought in by content publishers is from new customers (US, Q4 2016).

So, an affiliate program featuring these publishers will be part of the recommended strategy. Other channels – targeted Facebook ads, display retargeting, for example – will also likely be vital to achieving the objective.

The program must be set up properly to meet the business objectives set out at the start. This is only possible if the user journey – and marketing performance – is measured with proper multi-channel attribution, regardless of the channels and devices customers use, and regardless of whether a transaction took place online or offline.

Uptake of attribution

Why hasn’t this change happened already?

Some affiliate networks provide multi-touch payment systems where influencers get a flat rate for clicks in conversion journeys, even if they weren’t the last click. Other systems don’t allow voucher code affiliates to override the clicks of influencer publishers from earlier in the journey.

These types of structures represent steps in the right direction but fail to address attribution fully. True attribution must be about finding the value of touch points in a user journey across all channels, not just one. Advertisers using these partial methods will be stuck looking at channel-specific metrics like ROAS, rather than enabling their marketing teams to report directly against cross-channel business objectives.

Implementation blockers

It’s acknowledged that properly implementing and integrating multi-channel attribution is no easy task.

Aside from issues with the complexity of data, disparate tech platforms, and a business culture that doesn’t prioritise analytics, there are also political issues that must be overcome. A successful integration of attributed measurement and reporting means moving away from the traditional one-channel view of conversions, to a cross-channel, fairly weighted view based on the influence each touchpoint had in the user journey, regardless of channel, device, and whether that touchpoint was online or offline.

This disappearance of the channel-specific focus may mean that advertisers begin to reward publishers differently. Previously, where publishers may have been rewarded handsomely for their contribution to a sale based on a last-click single channel view, may see commission differ to accommodate a multi-channel attribution model.

Marketers are having to come to grips with a wider range of marketing disciplines. For now, much of this is confined to the real innovators and to board room conversations. Internal teams are still structured by channel, but affiliate marketing managers are having to look beyond building partnerships. They now must look at performance in a multi-channel context to see what insights and strategies they can draw from broader, more complex data. The transparent view of the full user journey granted by multi-channel attribution gives marketers this understanding of performance.

The key to overcoming the blockers to implementation is to get buy-in from stakeholders at the right time.

As more companies look to attribution to understand business performance and how it can be improved, channel-specific performance will now be looked at based on its contribution to the consumer journey. Those who champion the importance of the multi-channel view now and look beyond the silos will be those who thrive in the future.

This article first appeared in PerformanceIn