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AttributionConversion Rate OptimizationMedia OptimizationPerformance marketing

How You Count Conversions Matters: Advocating for Transparency

By January 10, 2017 November 12th, 2019 No Comments

This article was originally published in MarTech Advisor

Digital marketers have always been under scrutiny for media efficiency. Marketers’ measurement approach is anywhere on the spectrum from last click to advanced predictive algorithmic measurement. Given the indisputably wrong metrics last click produces, many marketers have graduated to algorithmic measurement.

In addition to dramatic improvement in measurement leading to media efficiency, algorithmic attribution measurement also enables accuracy by new ways of looking at data. One such way is examining conversion or events in a ‘media window,’ rather than the industry standard ‘conversion window.’ These two different views can impact insights against short-horizon tactics, for example, looking at a single week to understand impact of a creative.

The basic idea is really quite simple. In a ‘media window’, the data plotted against a media window looks at every touchpoint in that date range contributing to a conversion, irrespective of when the conversion occurred. ‘Conversion window’ data is examined using the timeframe a user selects, to look only at conversions that occurred within that window or date range.

How much does this matter to marketers and practitioners? It turns out, a lot.

Today marketers are using multiple channels to reach their customer, and customers in turn receive many advertisements (touchpoints in marketing lingo) in their path to conversion. The amount of data available across multiple campaigns in multiple channels, multiple publishers with multiple offers and creatives is enormous. Sifting through numerous tools and reports, marketers and practitioners are still left making guesses of what combination works best. Throw in changes of creative with a limited time offer, in say, week 3 of a campaign, the true impact of such a change is not possible to measure with the logic of conversion window.

Image 1: Conversion Window


What happens behind the scenes in many leading marketing measurement software companies is that a practitioner chooses to look at data from week 3 in an attribution report and filters to the creative level to look at the efficacy of the creative change (creative A from creative B), like in image 1. The paths in the visual are representative of a person who was exposed to many advertisements or media touchpoints. And all these media touchpoints try to influence a person to buy a product, sign up for a subscription or any other desired action that’s considered a conversion by the business paying for the touchpoints. ‘Conversion window’ considers conversions and touchpoints only within a user selected timeframe, but that’s not all, most leading measurement providers add touchpoints in the previous 2 weeks to the calculations. Why 2 weeks? Because that’s what the client or vendor (based on some historical trends and/or math) established as the timeframe within which most conversions occur.

So in this hypothetical representation of purchase paths of 9 people, although practitioner selects a date range of week 3, previous weeks are most likely considered and it would be a total of 14 touchpoints and 5 conversions (the touchpoints in blue). So when cost per acquisition for creative A is calculated it is based on 5 conversions when in fact there were more influenced by creative A.

So understanding the impact of creative change in week 3, with a conversion window is not accurate measure and missed the intent of the practitioner’s analysis.

Image 2: Media Window


To understand true media efficacy, it would make sense if the underlying logic within software reporting considers touchpoints and conversion in week 3, selected by the practitioner, but also includes touchpoints and conversions after the selected timeframe that were influenced by creative A, regardless of timing of the conversion event. Looking at it through a “media window” as in image 2, the touchpoints would be 26 touchpoints and conversion would be 9 and cost per acquisition will be based on 9 instead of 5 conversions, denoting higher media efficiency. So all the conversions influenced by creative A have been accounted for and the term media window is befitting. Media window allows you to look at partial converting paths with relevant attributes (in this case, creatives) for the business.

A media window is very useful for short-lived campaigns and on-the-fly optimizations. This differentiated approach has led to many accurate efficiency numbers and optimizations in my experience. There are scenarios where a conversion window is useful. But one has to be aware of the underlying approach to understand the application for optimization. You know your business best, so make sure the way conversions are accounted for makes most sense for your objectives.

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