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Jared Hamilton
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David Metter

David Metter President

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AT LAST: Attribution Claims its Throne

It’s an exciting time in digital history. Automotive marketers are finally catching on to the critical importance of attribution – AND more importantly, the associated consequences if accurate attribution is not accomplished. Maybe it’s something about the hot summer air. Or maybe digital leaders are just coming to their senses. Or maybe dealerships are just plain tired of spending thousands or even millions of dollars on advertising with not much to show for it at the end of the month. I hear this from Dealer Principals over and over as I speak at different events across the country. Most likely, it’s a combination of factors. But regardless of how or why, an attribution miracle is taking place as we speak in our industry.

Attribution is claiming its rightful throne as one of the most essential (if not THE most essential) elements in digital advertising. At last, dealerships and marketing experts alike are starting to realize the widespread scarcity of vendors that provide accurate sales attribution metrics. Furthermore, automotive leaders are more openly recognizing the subsequent wasted spend that results from not being able to draw a straight line from an ad source to a vehicle sold. The problem is, there is a group of decision makers (Dealer Principals, C-Level Executives, etc.) that are either making vendor decisions by looking at their monthly docs or relying on their under-trained digital team members. 

Mark my words - 2017 is going to be THE YEAR OF ATTRIBUTION. eMarketer just published an article admitting companies have been slow to adopt proper attribution methods due to a number of obstacles. “Marketers have always acknowledged the benefits of accounting for every marketing channel and brand-imposed touchpoint, but in spite of such awareness, adoption of these types of practices has been slow and labored.” In addition, they estimate over 50% of American businesses will make multichannel attribution a priority for their marketing efforts in the year ahead.

If you’re smart, you’ll make sure you’re a part of that +50%. You will also require proof from your vendors and partners that they are providing you with services that incrementally and exclusively lift both your website conversion and your sales. And to be clear, the word “incremental” translates to regular, consistent, and measurable actions that are exclusive to one source.

Jon Schulz, CMO of ad tech firm Viant stated, “It’s really all about attribution and closed-loop measurement.” In other words, “What am I getting? What’s working and what’s not working?” Rocket Fuel also reported a prevalent increase in attention to attribution metrics among senior-level marketing professionals, with 81% wanting to learn more about multichannel attribution.

It’s important to note, automotive vendors primarily fall into one of two buckets: traffic drivers and conversion specialists. Paid search, display, and retargeting are the most prevalent traffic drivers. However, this traffic must be properly tracked for one very important reason - an increase in website traffic does NOT necessarily result in an increase in sales. LotLinx for example, is a company that does a great job tracking conversions on your site, as well as how many of those customers took action or visited your showroom.

Attribution may be a head-spinning topic, but the reason it’s gaining so much attention is very simple. If you can better track your marketing efforts, you can see exactly where you’re losing money, opening up an entire world of new opportunities. Not to mention, your limited ad dollars will go further. This new leap of attribution faith is such an incredible movement, as the days of trying to guess which methods actually drive sales are coming to an end. Dealers are no longer forced to play the guessing game of which marketing efforts sold cars. At last, we can stop guessing and start measuring the REAL return on our marketing investments!

Chris K Leslie

Finally! I can't wait.. 

Attribution has been on the front of my mind for the last couple of years. Money is real and results should be real too. None of this "well, this is like this because of this" wishful BS crap.. 

Chris Kerr

Chris - You won't have to!  I hope you're coming to the Driving Sales Conference.  If so, you'll be able to hear our CEO Steve White speak about Multi-Touch Sales Attribution.  If you can't wait until October, I can set up a one on one.  Just let me know!  

Aubrey Hankins

The only issue that is seen in some attribution models, funny enough, is the accuracy of said attributing conversion. There are some large companies, who adhere to an IP address based model of attribution. This is VERY interesting, in the case of one such company, who uses no forms or collection areas to collect information to connect an IP address to a sold customer. Which in fact is not impossible, but requires more than algorithms, it requires legal authority and/or ISP authority, both of which we believe not to be given.

Long story short, attribution can be done to perfection, and we're very excited to see it come true, but it needs to be as clear in its results as it claims to give to the dealerships they're providing to.

Joe Tareen

This is a very serious topic wrought with many new technological and marketing possibilities. The starting point for every marketing efforts should be the vehicle in inventory itself. Matching inventory vehicles with potential buyers and digitally going after those buyers with availabiility of many marketing tactics and  platforms is the future. There are many third party data appending services which keep a detailed repository of countless customer/online user profiles. Such as social handles, used IP addresses, emails and etc. I believe the next big thing in auto marketing would be a solution that integrates all that into a dealer view that matches in real-time "in market customers" with "in inventory" vehicles.

Timothy Martell

Hi David. Great article! I hope you are correct which is why I'd love if you could share more specifics about how this will affect auto directly. The reason I mention this is that the primary roadblock to full attribution (in most cases) is the dealer's website vendor. This plagues auto largely due to the OEM mandated providers which largely prevent this due to expertise/competence and OEM bueraucratic red tape. 

Consider all of the 3rd party elements that often exist on site... Due to IP concerns much of the data ends up in a black hole when someone ends up on a 3rd party chat tool or lead driver, for example.

While there are certainly website providers who do operate competently and transparently, they are largely the minority in use at the tier 3 level. Do you really think there will be a mass exodus by dealers of the BIG providers? Thanks for the excellent post!

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