Earlier in the year, I did a 4-part blog post series on attribution and the need for retailers to move beyond simple last-click attribution. But the reality is, most retailers today, still leverage last-click attribution heavily, if not exclusively, to determine the ROI of their marketing spend.
If you are one of these retailers who still exclusively or heavily relies on last-click attribution to measure, listen up, this is for you.
For years, I’ve worked directly for and with a number of online-only retailers as well as brick-and-mortar retailers to develop robust, digital direct marketing programs. Email is, without fail, always the foundation of that program and is the primary channel retailers leverage to engage and convert their existing customer base.
In those years, I have, on numerous occasions, come across the following phenomenon: email sales are trending down while overall website sales are trending up. How is that even possible, you might ask? What is causing it? And the final question that inevitably gets asked: Who is to blame?
I like to call this “Channel Shift” and allow me walk you through a simple, and common, customer experience to illustrate what is going on.
You have a customer, let’s call her Melissa. Melissa is very valuable customer and has shopped with you multiple times over the last several months. Even more important, she is subscribed to receive your emails. She got one such email this morning, and she’s interested. She opens, she clicks, she browses the site, she adds products to the cart, she is doing everything you as a direct marketer want her to do. And then just as she is about to hit the button to proceed to checkout…you lost her.
That’s right, you lost the sale.
With your promo code box.
That big, empty promo code box right on the cart page.
You know what I’m talking about, the promo code box that is situated right above your “Secure Checkout” button.
The promo code box that says to every online shopper, “If you’re smart, and you’d like to not pay as much money as the cart says you’re going to pay right now, exit the site, search on Google for “Retailer X Coupons” and find a coupon.”
So Melissa, being the savvy online shopper that she is does just that. She leaves your site. She goes to Google. She searches online for your coupons. She goes to any one of the popular coupon affiliate sites out there, finds a coupon on that site that her order qualifies for, and she clicks through. And now you’ve lost.
She applies the promo code, completes checkout, and you and your efforts will go completely unrecognized for this transaction, despite the fact that your email did everything up until she was going to hit the checkout button. In the world of last-click attribution, your email from this morning may as well not even exist.
In the world of last-click attribution, the reality is that moving away from last-click in the short-term is not likely to happen.
So the first step is to recognize you and other retailers like you have a problem. How can you tell if you have a channel shift problem? The answer to the question, “Do I have a channel shift problem?” is almost always, “Yes.” Here are some of the common warning signs:
A better way is if your website analytics allows you to do a first-click vs. last-click comparison report. This kind of report allows you to see based on what channel the shopper clicked first if it was also the last-clicked channel or if it shifted over to another channel for that last click.
Now that we’ve all agreed that you have a Channel Shift problem…
The second step involves change. You have to change what you are doing. Here are what some of those changes might be:
1. Minimize your promo code box – by repositioning it somewhere on the cart page other than directly next to the “Proceed to Checkout” button and replacing it with a much less prominent link that says something like “Do you have a promo code?”, which when it is clicked will reveal a promo code box where a promo code can be applied
2. Ensure channel offer exclusivity – by making sure that opt-in, permission based channels like email, SMS and push notifications have much better offers than other channels. This is no easy task, mind you, as it takes disciplined coordination among and across teams, especially between the acquisition marketing teams and the retention marketing teams, who are often not incentivized to work together to optimize their marketing spend.
For example purposes, I’ll use a free shipping offer (assuming that you don’t already offer free shipping every day) to demonstrate what this coordinated approach might look like.
3. Unique coupon codes – when combined with channel exclusive offers, unique coupon codes for each individual recipient help to ensure that codes intended for specific channels can’t be posted to coupon sites after-the-fact. Also, be sure that your affiliate terms and conditions make a note that they will only get a commission on sales that are distributed to them by you, and not by consumers. This incentivizes them to keeping their site clean and free of consumer-posted codes.
4. Consider removing the promo code box altogether – by implementing “click-to-activate” promo links. If you decide to go down this route, be sure that you also reinforce the activated coupon with persistent site messaging that is consistently messaged on every page on the site and especially on the cart.
And the list could go on from there…
Implementing any or all of these changes can help reduce the effect of channel shift and ensure that your permission-based channels of email, SMS and push receive the proper attribution of the sales that they drive and reduce the likelihood of Channel Shift.
In reality, last-click is such a horrible way to measure the ROI complexities of today’s omnichannel customer experience. But making a fundamental change to attribution reporting is no small task, but it is the third step in Channel Shift mitigation. So, if you’re looking for ways to move beyond it, please read up on my past posts.
Image sources: round8.com, axialys.com, extrcdn.extremenetworks.com, socialmediaimpact.com