Multi Touch Attribution Evolution

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“Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) Is Not Dead, It's Evolved”,
~ says MTA pioneer & CEO of Provalytics Jeff Greenfield

    TL;DR: MTA pioneer Jeff Greenfield argues that Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) has evolved rather than becoming obsolete. MTA addresses the complexity of the digital marketing landscape, offering granular insights into customer journeys. Despite challenges from privacy concerns and data limitations, MTA providers are adapting to deliver more accurate models.
    Greenfield will be a featured speaker on Attribution at the Cynopsis Measurement and Data Conference in New York City held June 13 – 14, discussing how the 2023 MTA Playbook helps marketers evaluate MTA vendors based on essential criteria across five categories, ensuring informed decisions and better marketing outcomes.

    Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) has been a vi tool for marketers, but with the changing marketing landscape, some have questioned its viability. However, MTA pioneer and CEO of Provalytics, Jeff Greenfield, believes that MTA is not dead; it has simply evolved to meet the needs of the modern marketing landscape.

    MTA Emergence

    According to Greenfield, MTA emerged as a solution to the limitations of Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM), which was used for decades to evaluate the impact of marketing channels on sales. MMM utilized aggregate data and was not designed to accurately measure the digital path to purchase. As digital marketing grew, so did the need for a more granular and precise method of tracking and attributing success across different channels.

    "MMM was a good starting point for understanding the impact of different marketing channels on sales, but it had its limitations. It was not designed to measure the complexity of the digital path to purchase, which required a more sophisticated approach," says Greenfield.

    MTA was developed to fill this gap, allowing marketers to measure the contribution of each touchpoint in the customer journey. This level of detail provided a more accurate understanding of the consumer's path to purchase and enabled businesses to optimize their marketing strategies by allocating resources to the most effective channels.

    "MTA was a game-changer for the industry because it provided a more granular and precise method of tracking and attributing success across different channels. This allowed marketers to better understand the customer journey and make more informed decisions about their marketing strategies," Greenfield explains.

    The Evolution of MTA

    The evolution of MTA can be traced back to the early days of digital marketing when marketers realized that traditional MMM was insufficient for capturing the intricacies of online consumer behavior. With the advent of search engines, social media, and other digital platforms, it became clear that the consumer journey was no longer a linear path but a complex web of interactions across multiple touchpoints.

    To address this complexity, MTA models were designed to capture the influence of each touchpoint on a customer's decision to purchase, taking into account factors such as the viewability, order of interactions, the time between them, and the type of marketing channel. Early MTA models were relatively simple, often relying on heuristic approaches such as first-click, last-click, or linear attribution.

    However, these approaches failed to consider the incremental impact of each touchpoint on a customer's decision to purchase and thus did not provide a complete picture of the customer journey. This was a significant limitation of early MTA models and led to re-evaluating the approach.

    "As the digital landscape continued to evolve and the volume of available data increased, more sophisticated MTA models were developed that incorporated incrementality. These advanced models incorporated advanced statistical techniques to provide a more accurate picture of the customer journey," says Greenfield.

    Challenges Facing MTA

    Despite the undeniable benefits of MTA, the increasing focus on consumer privacy has presented new challenges for MTA providers. Marketers are now tasked with finding ways to maintain the granularity and accuracy of MTA models while respecting consumer privacy and adhering to emerging regulations.

    These changes have resulted in new limitations on data collection and have made it nearly impossible for marketers to track user behavior across platforms and accurately measure the impact of marketing channels.

    Some of the most significant challenges include:

    1. IOS Privacy Changes: Apple's implementation of privacy features, such as Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and App Tracking Transparency (ATT), has limited the ability of marketers to track user behavior across platforms, impacting the accuracy of MTA models.
    2. New Privacy Laws: The introduction of privacy laws, starting with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), has created a patchwork of regulations that marketers must navigate, complicating MTA measurement.
    3. Walled Gardens: Major platforms, such as Facebook and Google, restrict access to user-level data, creating "walled gardens" that hinder the ability of marketers to attribute touchpoints within these ecosystems accurately.
    4. Removal of Third-Party Cookies: Google's plan to phase out third-party cookies from Chrome by 2023 will further limit the data available for MTA, necessitating the development of alternative methods for tracking user behavior.
    5. New Digital Media Channels: The rise of new channels, such as podcasts and Connected TV (CTV), which cannot attribute ‘clicks,’ poses additional challenges for MTA measurement.

    MTA providers should be looking to utilize aggregated, non-PII data versus user-level data, which they would typically collect via website tags, says Greenfield. Advanced AI and ML algorithms now allow for the analysis of complex, daily-level data with the ability to output MTA-type results.

    Greenfield believes that the challenges facing MTA have made it a more valuable tool for marketers. "By developing new privacy-preserving techniques, MTA providers are improving the accuracy and usefulness of their attribution models," he says. "These innovations are making it easier for marketers to gain insights into consumer behavior and optimize their marketing campaigns, even in the face of privacy concerns and data limitations."

    2023 MTA (Multi-Touch Attribution) Playbook

    The Attribution Playbook for 2023, a vital resource for marketing professionals, has been diligently assembled by Jeff Greenfield of Proavlytics since its inception in 2010. This year's edition, accessible as a complimentary download from the Provalytics website, comprehensively examines multi-touch attribution (MTA) firms. It evaluates these companies based on 22 distinct factors, empowering marketers to select a vendor that best matches their organization's unique marketing and measurement needs.

    Cynopsis Measurement & Data Conference

    Greenfield will speak on Attribution at the Cynopsis Measurement & Data Conference in New York City, held June 13 – 14.

    During a session titled “What is Attribution and ROI/ROA measurement?” Greenfield will discuss the evolution of Attribution to solve today’s issues, including Walled Gardens, privacy regulation & the upcoming ‘cookie collapse.’ Other speakers include Bill Harvey, Jane Clarke, Alice K. Sylvester, and Jim Spaeth.

    The Cynopsis two-day Measurement & Data Conference covers critical topics with the leaders spearheading the attribution revolution and addresses the measurement questions that really matter to marketers.

    Learn more about the conference here: