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From: Jared Hamilton
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John Clavadetscher

John Clavadetscher Chief Revenue Officer

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RIP Last-Click Attribution

Last-click attribution is dead. And major data publishers know it, as evidenced by Google’s attempts to improve its attribution capabilities. For many auto dealers, Google’s tools, which default to last-click attribution, fail to measure the effectiveness of auto dealers’ marketing spend in an omnichannel world. As a result, dealers are over investing in tactics such as paid search with limited payback.

To master digital, auto dealers need to recognize all the media that determine what, where, and from whom consumers purchase vehicles – or what is known as multi-touch attribution. In digital, multi-touch attribution gives credit where credit is due – similar to an ice hockey game where players are credited with assists for passing puck to the team mate who scores a goal. Multi-touch attribution provides insight into how all the players contributed.

For some time, dealers have been telling me that tools such as Google Analytics provide, at best, a glimpse of last-click attribution, meaning that dealers lack a true understanding of all the touchpoints that influence the shopper’s journey.

I have some new hard numbers to complement dealers’ experiences, courtesy of Clarivoy.

For context: Clarivoy provides proprietary software products that help businesses measure the return on their marketing spend. The Clarivoy Multi-Touch Attribution solution is designed to help dealers understand how all their digital marketing investment efforts -- not just the last click or interaction -- influence the car buying journey.

Recently more than 100 Cars.com dealer customers integrated the Clarivoy Multi-Touch Attribution solution into their Google Analytics software. We suspected that Google Analytics was failing to recognize the true influence of third-party sites such as Cars.com, and we believed Clarivoy’s product would expose those limitations.

Our hunch was correct. As Clarivoy announced July 11, dealers using last-click attribution with Google Analytics are not able to accurately attribute the value of third-party sites such as Cars.com. For instance, on average, dealers who implemented the multi-touch attribution solution saw conversions on their sites attributed to Cars.com increase by 37 percent -- with a 20 percent decrease in cost per conversion after two months on the trial.

The results were even more interesting when dealers considered the conversions that occur directly on Cars.com. Adding Cars.com data (e.g., Cars.com leads) to the multi-touch attribution model allowed one dealer to identify more than 11,000 conversion events that happened on the Cars.com site – on top of the original 103 reported by Google Analytics!

This trial use of the Clarivoy solution provides some important take-aways:

  • There is a disconnect between consumer behavior and dealers’ marketing investments. On the one hand, shoppers are navigating several omnichannel touchpoints ranging from Cars.com to OEM sites as they research and shop for vehicles. About half these shoppers don’t even contact the dealer before walking onto the lot. But on the other hand, dealers are overspending on tactics such as paid search that fail to measure how myriad touchpoints in the journey shape a shopper’s perceptions.
  • Dealers need to graduate beyond the use of basic tools such as Google Analytics to truly understand consumer behavior. As I mention in the Clarivoy announcement, dealers need stronger tools to really understand the full customer journey leading up to the last click. Doing so will help dealers understand the influence that third-party sites such as Cars.com have on the path to purchase and make more informed decisions about how to allocate their marketing spend.

The disconnect between consumer behavior and dealers’ marketing investments has some important consequences. Dealers:

  • Lack an accurate understanding of how their customers behave.
  • Overinvest in the wrong tactics.
  • Miss opportunities to connect with customers in the areas where consumers are researching and shopping, including Cars.com.                                                                                            

The solution to this disconnect is for dealers to use multi-attribution tools that look before the last click. Once dealers are set up for success, they can adjust their marketing spend accordingly – and start reaping the benefits of true insight into consumer behavior. What are you waiting for?

Jim Dykstra

John, 

You're dead on point. The increase in the number of advertising solutions causes dealers to reach for attribution that is more tangible. It's there nature, and why so many continue to overspend on print. They believe it more when they see their ads in the paper and on the desks (if they have good reps) in their showrooms. Crediting the last touch for 100% attribution for any new or used car sale is akin to attributing 100% of a marriage solely to the proposal. Lots of prior inputs with a far greater impact than the quality (or lack thereof) of any proposal.    

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