Beyond last-click attribution: Other success metrics you should be tracking
Conversions are an important success metric, but they don't tell the whole story. Columnist Kristie Colby discusses the importance of taking the whole customer journey into account.
Every digital marketing strategy has an “end goal” designed to improve the bottom line. Many marketers focus on last-click attributed conversions (e.g., a sale, form completion or registration) to assess the success or failure of their digital investment.
But there are many required touch points before a prospective customer commits to making a purchase, filling out a form or picking up the phone.
This article focuses on the importance of measuring non-converting actions in addition to conversion metrics.
Visualize the buyer’s journey
Google created an interactive tool to help marketers visualize a digital buyer’s journey based on company size, industry and geo-targeting (although the data are limited to select locations). While somewhat generalized, this tool does illustrate the way a customer is impacted by digital media throughout the decision-making process.
Touch points with a brand can include social, paid search advertising, banner ad placements, organic search, email, referral and direct visits, to name a few.
When you consider that these interactions can also happen across different devices (mobile phone, personal computer, office computer or tablet), it becomes clear that measuring engagement beyond last-click conversion is crucial.
Attribution is tricky to measure
Attribution connects all of the dots along the buying cycle and attempts to measure how each touch point impacts the ultimate decision to purchase. There are several different attribution models (an article for another day), and measuring actions across devices and over a significant period of time is not a perfect science.
This is a large reason why many marketers focus so heavily on last-click conversion measurement — it’s the easiest to track. But the reality is that each digital channel and each interaction has a role in the decision to purchase — they are interrelated and interdependent.
Establish non-conversion goals
So what is a digital marketer to do? A strong digital marketing strategy should have defined goals related to performance beyond purchase. I recommend that marketers establish goals related to engagement, perception and brand awareness.
Here are some important questions that marketers need to answer:
- Are more people following the brand in social channels?
- Are the interactions and feedback via customer reviews positive or negative?
- Do search volume trends show increased interest in the brand, products and services?
- Are more people interacting with the brand’s website?
- Is there diversity in the channel mix that’s driving traffic to the brand’s website?
Depending on the channel mix, the KPIs of measurement will be unique to the business and goals. Here are a few examples of non-conversion metrics I recommend (The sky really is the limit here):
- Visitors. Track both new and returning visitors to the website. While a net new audience is important to long-term success, people returning to continue to educate themselves about the brand, products and services is also very positive.
- Traffic by channel. Measure volume of traffic by channel and their trends over time. Are the sources more diverse? Is the traffic by source acceptable based on the digital strategy in place?
- View through conversions. This is an especially important metric for retargeting programs. It allows marketers to understand how the retargeting program is assisting with conversions.
- Ad spend and branded searches. What is the correlation between total ad spend and direct/organic traffic from branded searches? Is it leading to return visits to the brand’s website? This metric indicates if your advertising investment is impacting brand awareness and interest.
Focus on the journey
While the easiest performance metric in digital marketing may be the last-click conversion, it is important to consider how all steps contribute to that last action. Each interaction makes a direct contribution to a buyer’s journey and decision-making process.
Digital marketing involves a series of opportunities to engage prospective customers; focus on your buyer’s entire journey, not just their final destination.