Last-click attribution is so last year
Multichannel attribution is hot topic for travel marketers. Tom Bacon shares three tips for getting it right
As we all know, most travel planning has become more complex, less one-dimensional. Loyalty, email, and social media, among other customer acquisition strategies, can work together in complex ways to drive incremental purchases.
Listening to the industry at a recent EyeforTravel event, the general consensus seemed to be that the average hotel customer visits 18 different sites over 17 days in eight unique sessions before making a booking.
The average hotel search: 17 days / 18 sites / 8 sessions / 16 clicks
So travel suppliers really do need to change how they think about travel marketing. And the first thing they need to do is shift from a one channel to multi/omni-channel approach.
…it is effectively the whole process that now drives bookings
Here is why. If travellers are accessing so many different sites to make their travel decisions, it’s misleading to attribute success to any one platform or site or initiative. Potentially, a supplier would not gain any more bookings by focusing on a single initiative since it is effectively the whole process that now drives bookings. So-called ‘last click’ attribution – or associating bookings exclusively with what platform/site was used last – can lead to sub-optimal allocation of marketing resource or attention.
One major travel supplier sharply reduced advertising dollars when their analysis showed that few customers purchased their services based on ads. This analysis, however, neglected the potential role of ads as one step in a multi-step purchase decision process.
New multi-channel attribution models should incorporate both online (email, social media, etc) and offline (print and TV advertising, events) engagements with customers. Merging the two worlds (online and offline) can be very challenging as customer engagements with offline initiatives are generally more macro, less direct and thus more difficult to track.
The complexity of the purchase process defies traditional sales funnel analysis as some customers skip steps while others return repeatedly to the same site for updates. The decision path, in fact, may be quite individual.
3 new ways to evaluate customer engagement in a multichannel world
1. Account for all channels/sites in analysis of booking performance
Rather than last-click attribution, weighting needs to be given to each interaction or engagement with the customer. In the ‘average’ example above, each of the 18 sites visited would be regarded as contributing to the final successful booking.
Sites can be classified as primarily inspirational or informational or transactional – but with 18 sites accessed as part of the average decision process, this classification may not be robust. And, for optimal resource allocation, all categories of engagements need to be justified economically – meaning suppliers need to understand how each relates to actual revenue bookings.
2. Apply business rules for relative weighting among engagements
Each interaction could receive exactly the same weighting in attribution of the booking. Or, alternatively, marketing can use qualitative assessments to more heavily weight certain engagements in the process. Of course, any such weighting differences should be validated through surveys or other analysis.
There may be logic to weighting different kinds of engagements differently
Many marketers weight recent engagements more heavily. In different parts of the travel business ‘recent’ has different definitions, of course. Some travel planning processes, however, take much longer than even the 17 days cited above and engagements that are over 21 or 30 days old presumably should receive less weight than engagements in the last few days.
Some marketers apply extra weight to either first click (the beginning of the process, that is finding the customer) or last click (the actual booking), or both.
There may be logic to weighting different kinds of engagements differently. Reviews may play a different role in the process than rate information, for example.
3. Mapping alternative customer engagement and purchase decision paths
New mapping recognises that the decision process isn’t always linear. It may be more useful to consider the booking as the centre of a hub of engagements where customers proceed to the center along different paths. This can incorporate ‘last click’ engagements but also portray the relative importance of other interactions in the process.
There is no longer a “typical booking process” for travel and, as customers’ interaction with suppliers is increasingly multi-channel, multi-site and multi-device, analysis of the effectiveness of campaigns must consider multi-attribution – acknowledging the role of each interaction in the ultimate booking decision. Each supplier needs to develop the appropriate method of multi-attribution for his product/service, taking into account both online and offline engagements and potentially varying weights applied to different interactions. For most suppliers, however, “last click” attribution – or considering only the last interaction -- will conceal the important role of non-booking sites and other less direct engagements in the typical travel purchase decision process and can drive suboptimal resource allocation.
By Tom Bacon, 25-year airline veteran and industry consultant in revenue optimization, attended eyefortravel’s “Smart Analytics” conference in Atlanta in early February.