Cookieless Attribution and Measurement Solutions

Cookieless Attribution and Measurement Solutions

Cookies have been the underpinning for most digital marketing performance measurement for over twenty years, which has allowed advertisers to measure post-click conversions and attribution for sales impact. As a result, channels like paid search and display retargeting typically stand out as ‘performance channels’. Simply put, cookie deprecation takes away the easy button of using off-the-self audiences and straightforward conversion tracking.  However, without third-party pixels, determining clear return on ad spend will become more challenging, especially for marketers who continue to rely on click-based attribution models.

Without cookies, it is imperative that you develop more meaningful ways of understanding how customers make decisions and how it impacts business results, a topic we recently covered on The Loop Marketing Podcast.

How to calculate marketing ROI in the cookieless future

In this new paradigm, marketers will need to rely more heavily on strategy to get the greatest and most accurate ROI

The ability to calculate marketing ROI starts with having a strong measurement strategy in place prior to campaign launch. Smart marketers know to look beyond online conversion data and search for correlations with business performance to determine true directional success. Advertising campaigns need to be set-up to achieve business goals rather than just vanity metrics. It’s important to know when to incorporate more robust analytical solutions to understand what’s impacting your bottom line. 

Cookieless measurement solutions

Some methods for measuring media campaigns in the cookieless future include: 

  • Media mix modeling (MMM): MMM works by isolating one variable at a time to see the impact of removing or adding a tactic. It allows deeper understanding of how omnichannel campaigns work together and incrementally impact key outcomes. 
  • Advanced measurement studies: Exposed vs. control consumer studies track brand lift, sales lift or foot traffic lift to provide greater insights into the real impact of advertising on difficult-to-measure business goals. 
  • Overlaying multiple data sources: Brands can match up Google Analytics conversion data, or sales data, with paid media data. While more time and knowledge intensive in terms of the analysis needed, this is effective to look beyond media data alone and instead looking holistically at the brand to understand marketing’s impact. 

Place less emphasis on media efficiency metrics and more emphasis on effectiveness. Look at correlations between business and media data to identify incremental conversions compared to your company baseline. 

To achieve this, marketers will need to identify leading indicators of success by channel and tactic and optimize towards those metrics.  

Will the cookieless future impact walled gardens?

Walled gardens, such as Facebook and Amazon, leverage their own first-party user data. As a result, cookie deprecation will affect them less in terms of targeting. 

Within platform confines, advertisers will still be able to track individual users, though the windows of attribution can vary. Due to this, walled gardens allow for brands to conduct some closed-loop measurement. That being said, there will be limitations on attribution, and less deterministic targeting as privacy laws continue to become stricter.

Walled garden pixels will have limited ability to pass back data to the platform once cookies are gone. We can expect front end marketing performance metrics to decline, even if backend business performance remains the same. Plan for shifts in attribution, using strategies like those laid out above, as we get closer to cookie deprecation.

Cookieless attribution tips

Begin testing and learning today to proactively understand what will and will not be effective in the cookieless future. 

  1. Begin benchmarking current performance ASAP: compare performance of cookie-based vs. cookieless tactics. Then, analyze backend data to determine the effect on business results and set expectations accordingly.
  2. Consolidate to fewer platforms, or find a way to ID map: Platforms are developing their own internal ID tracking frameworks. The more platforms you execute your media through, the more disparate measurement systems you have to consider. This will also minimize duplication across platforms. 

The deprecation of third-party cookies will undoubtedly impact the way marketers approach digital media. But a data-driven media plan tied into a holistic cookieless attribution and measurement solution will ensure your business continues to grow by reaching the audience in the right place at the right time.

How to Nail Your International Marketing Launch

Cookieless Attribution and Measurement Solutions

Cookies have been the underpinning for most digital marketing performance measurement for over twenty years, which has allowed advertisers to measure post-click conversions and attribution for sales impact. As a result, channels like paid search and display retargeting typically stand out as ‘performance channels’. Simply put, cookie deprecation takes away the easy button of using off-the-self audiences and straightforward conversion tracking.  However, without third-party pixels, determining clear return on ad spend will become more challenging, especially for marketers who continue to rely on click-based attribution models.

Without cookies, it is imperative that you develop more meaningful ways of understanding how customers make decisions and how it impacts business results, a topic we recently covered on The Loop Marketing Podcast.

How to calculate marketing ROI in the cookieless future

In this new paradigm, marketers will need to rely more heavily on strategy to get the greatest and most accurate ROI

The ability to calculate marketing ROI starts with having a strong measurement strategy in place prior to campaign launch. Smart marketers know to look beyond online conversion data and search for correlations with business performance to determine true directional success. Advertising campaigns need to be set-up to achieve business goals rather than just vanity metrics. It’s important to know when to incorporate more robust analytical solutions to understand what’s impacting your bottom line. 

Cookieless measurement solutions

Some methods for measuring media campaigns in the cookieless future include: 

  • Media mix modeling (MMM): MMM works by isolating one variable at a time to see the impact of removing or adding a tactic. It allows deeper understanding of how omnichannel campaigns work together and incrementally impact key outcomes. 
  • Advanced measurement studies: Exposed vs. control consumer studies track brand lift, sales lift or foot traffic lift to provide greater insights into the real impact of advertising on difficult-to-measure business goals. 
  • Overlaying multiple data sources: Brands can match up Google Analytics conversion data, or sales data, with paid media data. While more time and knowledge intensive in terms of the analysis needed, this is effective to look beyond media data alone and instead looking holistically at the brand to understand marketing’s impact. 

Place less emphasis on media efficiency metrics and more emphasis on effectiveness. Look at correlations between business and media data to identify incremental conversions compared to your company baseline. 

To achieve this, marketers will need to identify leading indicators of success by channel and tactic and optimize towards those metrics.  

Will the cookieless future impact walled gardens?

Walled gardens, such as Facebook and Amazon, leverage their own first-party user data. As a result, cookie deprecation will affect them less in terms of targeting. 

Within platform confines, advertisers will still be able to track individual users, though the windows of attribution can vary. Due to this, walled gardens allow for brands to conduct some closed-loop measurement. That being said, there will be limitations on attribution, and less deterministic targeting as privacy laws continue to become stricter.

Walled garden pixels will have limited ability to pass back data to the platform once cookies are gone. We can expect front end marketing performance metrics to decline, even if backend business performance remains the same. Plan for shifts in attribution, using strategies like those laid out above, as we get closer to cookie deprecation.

Cookieless attribution tips

Begin testing and learning today to proactively understand what will and will not be effective in the cookieless future. 

  1. Begin benchmarking current performance ASAP: compare performance of cookie-based vs. cookieless tactics. Then, analyze backend data to determine the effect on business results and set expectations accordingly.
  2. Consolidate to fewer platforms, or find a way to ID map: Platforms are developing their own internal ID tracking frameworks. The more platforms you execute your media through, the more disparate measurement systems you have to consider. This will also minimize duplication across platforms. 

The deprecation of third-party cookies will undoubtedly impact the way marketers approach digital media. But a data-driven media plan tied into a holistic cookieless attribution and measurement solution will ensure your business continues to grow by reaching the audience in the right place at the right time.

4 Ways to Drive Greater Impact with Your Media Investment

Cookieless Attribution and Measurement Solutions

Cookies have been the underpinning for most digital marketing performance measurement for over twenty years, which has allowed advertisers to measure post-click conversions and attribution for sales impact. As a result, channels like paid search and display retargeting typically stand out as ‘performance channels’. Simply put, cookie deprecation takes away the easy button of using off-the-self audiences and straightforward conversion tracking.  However, without third-party pixels, determining clear return on ad spend will become more challenging, especially for marketers who continue to rely on click-based attribution models.

Without cookies, it is imperative that you develop more meaningful ways of understanding how customers make decisions and how it impacts business results, a topic we recently covered on The Loop Marketing Podcast.

How to calculate marketing ROI in the cookieless future

In this new paradigm, marketers will need to rely more heavily on strategy to get the greatest and most accurate ROI

The ability to calculate marketing ROI starts with having a strong measurement strategy in place prior to campaign launch. Smart marketers know to look beyond online conversion data and search for correlations with business performance to determine true directional success. Advertising campaigns need to be set-up to achieve business goals rather than just vanity metrics. It’s important to know when to incorporate more robust analytical solutions to understand what’s impacting your bottom line. 

Cookieless measurement solutions

Some methods for measuring media campaigns in the cookieless future include: 

  • Media mix modeling (MMM): MMM works by isolating one variable at a time to see the impact of removing or adding a tactic. It allows deeper understanding of how omnichannel campaigns work together and incrementally impact key outcomes. 
  • Advanced measurement studies: Exposed vs. control consumer studies track brand lift, sales lift or foot traffic lift to provide greater insights into the real impact of advertising on difficult-to-measure business goals. 
  • Overlaying multiple data sources: Brands can match up Google Analytics conversion data, or sales data, with paid media data. While more time and knowledge intensive in terms of the analysis needed, this is effective to look beyond media data alone and instead looking holistically at the brand to understand marketing’s impact. 

Place less emphasis on media efficiency metrics and more emphasis on effectiveness. Look at correlations between business and media data to identify incremental conversions compared to your company baseline. 

To achieve this, marketers will need to identify leading indicators of success by channel and tactic and optimize towards those metrics.  

Will the cookieless future impact walled gardens?

Walled gardens, such as Facebook and Amazon, leverage their own first-party user data. As a result, cookie deprecation will affect them less in terms of targeting. 

Within platform confines, advertisers will still be able to track individual users, though the windows of attribution can vary. Due to this, walled gardens allow for brands to conduct some closed-loop measurement. That being said, there will be limitations on attribution, and less deterministic targeting as privacy laws continue to become stricter.

Walled garden pixels will have limited ability to pass back data to the platform once cookies are gone. We can expect front end marketing performance metrics to decline, even if backend business performance remains the same. Plan for shifts in attribution, using strategies like those laid out above, as we get closer to cookie deprecation.

Cookieless attribution tips

Begin testing and learning today to proactively understand what will and will not be effective in the cookieless future. 

  1. Begin benchmarking current performance ASAP: compare performance of cookie-based vs. cookieless tactics. Then, analyze backend data to determine the effect on business results and set expectations accordingly.
  2. Consolidate to fewer platforms, or find a way to ID map: Platforms are developing their own internal ID tracking frameworks. The more platforms you execute your media through, the more disparate measurement systems you have to consider. This will also minimize duplication across platforms. 

The deprecation of third-party cookies will undoubtedly impact the way marketers approach digital media. But a data-driven media plan tied into a holistic cookieless attribution and measurement solution will ensure your business continues to grow by reaching the audience in the right place at the right time.

Measure What Matters

One of my long-standing mantras at Coegi is ‘Measure What Matters’.

So when the ANA released a report entitled ‘Media KPIs That Matter’, I was more than a little intrigued.  What the report found won’t surprise too many of us that work in performance marketing: most brands focus on KPIs that don’t really align with their business objectives.  

So why is this?  For starters, there is a lot of pressure for digital campaigns to be ‘data driven’.  I bet if the ANA asked if their members organizations are data driven, 100% would say yes.  The challenge is that there is too much data for the decision makers to truly understand. For marketing veterans that came from creative or PR backgrounds (that weren’t exposed to digital media buying earlier in their careers), it is challenging to grade the effectiveness of an omni-channel digital marketing.   Thus, they lean on the stats they feel most comfortable with: CPM, CPC and CTR.  Website traffic, reach and completion rates.  What we have longed referred to at Coegi as vanity metrics. To be fair, media efficiency should be a factor, but far less than many brands think. As my friends at The Trade Desk say, you can’t report on CTR on an earnings call.  

But what about ROAS?

Isn’t that the magic metric we should all be optimizing to anyways?  It should be in theory, but in practice, it all depends on attribution.  Is 100% of the conversion credit going to the last touch or last impression?  There are very few digital programs that are even attempting multi-touch attribution, and those that try are stymied by walled gardens that don’t share a unified measurement framework.  ROAS numbers are only as accurate as the data you use to analyze it, and too often there is more noise than signal in last-touch attribution.  Recent changes to app tracking on Apple phones and the impending elimination of third-party cookies on Google Chrome make attribution all the more challenging.

So what about the agencies?  Isn’t it their job to advise their clients as to the metrics they should be measuring?   Certainly many performance strategists are pushing to move towards more meaningful measurement, but it often involves a lot more institutional buy-in at the brand that you would expect.  Advocating an advanced measurement framework at the end of a proposal just isn’t going to cut it.  Often, you not only have to educate the marketing team, but the C-suite, product and sales teams as well.  

Creating a path to measure what matters

So what is the path forward for marketers trying to determine their media KPIs?  From my perspective, there is no singular KPI that defines success for any digital marketing campaign.  Instead, we should build custom measurement frameworks across multiple KPIs, that incorporate not just media efficiency metrics, but also engagement, brand lift, transactional data, and ROAS analysis, to get a better understanding of your digital program as a whole. Furthermore, it can be worthwhile to revisit the more academic and statistical forms of analysis, such as media mix modeling, matched market tests, and regression analysis, to get to the heart of success. 

Recommended reading:

Brand vs Performance Marketing

As marketers, we often preach about setting separate KPIs for campaigns in different funnel stages. We are comparing brand vs performance marketing depending on campaign goals. While this is needed, we must understand the synergies between the two to fully optimize campaigns.

At Coegi, we define ourselves as performance marketing practitioners. Does this mean we ignore branding and top funnel efforts? Of course not. We believe that all marketing efforts can ladder up to business goals.

What’s the Difference Between Brand vs Performance Marketing?

A Forbes article explains, “Brand marketing encourages customers to raise their hands. Performance marketing makes it as easy as possible for a customer to get your product into their hand after they raise it.” Branded campaigns are structured to build brand affinity, recall, values, and other emotion-based results.

Performance marketing, conversely, is all about the numbers. Finding ways to build efficiencies and grow total results. These measurement-focused campaigns are built to drive conversions, leads, purchases, and purposeful clicks. All while lowering the cost per action based on channel, audience, and creative learnings.

How To Hold Brand Campaigns Accountable

Marketers that have historically leaned on traditional channels are shifting to digital platforms to have a more targeted approach. However, brand campaign dollars are generally not held accountable like performance dollars. Yet, there is an increasing demand from CFOs and CEOs for those quantifiable results and clear ROI.

A marketer’s job is to showcase the value of upper funnel marketing on long and short term business results. For example, a McKinsey study reported, “With a clearer understanding of consumer preferences and behavior at the early stages of their buying journey, companies report marketing efficiency gains of up to 30% and incremental top-line growth of up to 10% without increasing the marketing budget.”

Measuring Branding Campaign Results

How can you start to measure brand campaigns? Identify business objectives towards awareness that indicate a positive sentiment towards or engagement with your product. Ask the right questions, determine the right methodology, and understand what actions are truly driving interest in your brand.

Taking Full-Funnel Full-Circle

A MarketingProfs article explained this by saying, “brand-driven insight is your truth—the WHY behind all that you do. The performance marketing is your plan put into action—the HOW and WHAT of manifesting that truth.” By understanding this full customer journey, brands can make audiences feel understood. This is accomplished through using data-driven insights to build meaningful messaging on the channels where they are most present and receptive. Ultimately, this builds trust while optimizing budgets simply by being relevant to your core audience. This sets the stage for lower funnel campaigns and creates a more seamless path to conversion.

Coegi built a full-funnel marketing campaign to increase emotional brand connection and drive product trials for  a CPG client. We executed a performance branding study on Facebook to evaluate brand lift and conversion lift for key website events. This blended approach allowed for valuable insights into multiple stages of the consumer journey, from awareness to purchase intent. The results surpassed various CPG benchmarks and highlighted the importance of creating synergies between creative execution and operational strategy. It also placed more accountability on the incrementality of our branding efforts.

Key Takeaways

  • Treat all marketing campaigns as performance-based
  • Hold brand campaigns accountable with custom measurement frameworks that then inform business outcomes
  • Pull insights from bottom funnel campaigns to inform top funnel campaigns (and vice versa)

For more, read Boost Customer Lifetime Value with Awareness Marketing.

Why Walled Gardens Will (and Won’t) Be More Critical in the Future

 

As we begin to explore the world of cookieless digital advertising, marketers will likely be focusing much of their attention on walled gardens with valuable first-party data. However, even walled gardens have issues we will need to navigate through in order to achieve business goals which are tangible to the financial guardians of brands.

Most analysts predict that walled gardens (in particular Google) will be the safest place to conduct audience targeted buys in 2023.  Even while Google’s DSP allows marketers to buy a lot of inventory, it is currently more limited in audio, connected TV and DOOH inventory.  These are channels where context is probably more important than the precision of the audience and where there is likely going to be a need to diversify to other advertising platforms to achieve a successful omni-channel strategy.

Using Facebook User Data

Facebook does have robust behavioral data from signed-in users; however, iOS 15 makes it more challenging to perform audience-based buys and to attribute conversions.  Some of our early campaigns showed a 15x increase in CPA within the platform, but nearly no impact on actual sales.  This means that conversion data on the Facebook platform was (and is) solely directional for most advertisers. While good for the business, this might be more challenging for marketers trying to prove their marketing is “working.”

Should You Trust the Algorithm?

The big ad tech players, and thus some agencies, will likely advise brands to ‘trust the algorithm’ even more than they have in the past, as Google, Facebook and Amazon don’t give specialists a lot of control over or insights about many aspects of their buying decisions.  Facebook in particular makes it challenging to control frequency, and DV360’s lookalike modeling is very opaque.  Against a lack of accurate measurement across each walled garden, brands and their agencies need to develop more holistic, advanced measurement frameworks.

How Will Cookie Deprecation Affect CPMs?

While scale is impacted slightly outside of Google Chrome and Android apps, there are still ample opportunities to bid for inventory in these environments.  However, with fewer buying platforms to conduct audience-based buys and fewer impressions to scale against, CPMs will likely increase, in particular on video.  This might put pressure on agencies to ‘keep the costs down’, which in turn may increase traffic from bots and fraudulent inventory.  Brands need to expect an increase in CPMs while not incentivizing a decrease in inventory quality.

A Walled Garden SWOT Analysis

Strengths – Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple each have huge first-party data sets.  And not just in volume of users, they have robust metadata around each profile as well, from account information, purchase history and behavior.  Even if ID-based solutions grow in count, it’s possible we may not be able to append significant amounts of secondary data to each profile to be scalable for marketers.

Weaknesses – You will undoubtedly need adjustments in terms of attribution and measurement.  Even today, if you were to believe the metrics from each platform, nearly all of your automated marketing channels would have +ROI for the same purchase. Paid search, Facebook conversion ads and programmatic retargeting can’t all have a CPA of $10. They can’t produce 10,000 sales when you only sold 3,000 products. This is because each is taking credit for any time a user touches their ad. Because the walled gardens don’t share a common user profile, multi-touch attribution can be disjointed and inconsistent. It’s safe to say the methods of achieving measurement will have to change.

Opportunities – Lean into first-party and second-party data in walled garden platforms, and rely less on retargeting. This allows for stronger prospecting and less reliance on audiences that were likely to “convert” anyway and, therefore, inflate marketing metrics.

Threats – Because many marketers and brands will be leaning into walled gardens to circumvent the challenges of cookie deprecation, it is likely that there will be an increase in advertising costs on these platforms. Budgets will need to increase to achieve the same scale as before.

So what does this mean?

At present, our suggestion is to lean into walled gardens for precise audience targeting. But, begin measuring success of your advertising program at a higher level.  Some examples of this include matched market tests, media mix modeling, and control vs. exposed methodologies.

Yes, this will make it more challenging to know which 50% of your marketing spend is effective. But, it’s the best solution with the reduction of transparency in algorithmic data and therefore less understanding of success from a conversion data standpoint. This will also force marketers to start looking at the data as a whole. It’s time to get away from optimizing towards last-click and last-touch metrics. They have provided misleading signals for years.

Regarding measurement changes, advertising campaigns need to be set-up to reach business goals rather than just media metric KPIs.  To achieve this, individual channels and tactics will need to identify leading indicators to optimize toward.  Engagement rates, reach, completion rate, and measures of media effectiveness like CPM/CPC should become more of a focus rather than CPAs.

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