Strong customer engagement is often an accomplishment coveted by digital marketers. It's that special sauce that fuels referrals and brand loyalty, while providing businesses with integral input and feedback directly from their target audience.
But if your strategy entails multiple digital channels, it can be hard to define what engagement means across platforms and harder still to measure it.
A recent eMarketer study shows that among senior marketers in North America, 33 percent said they struggle to attribute financial impact to specific channels of engagement. Another 18 percent said they are in the process of implementing tools for multichannel attribution, and nearly 30 percent said they only have attribution for certain channels.
Even for large companies with extensive resources, measuring engagement across channels is a challenge because it requires a detailed and tactical strategy. In this article, we'll give you an overview of how to identify the metrics that matter across channels, and the multilevel framework that makes attribution possible.
Identifying Key Customer Engagement Metrics
Ten percent of respondents in the eMarketer survey said they can see the impact of each channel in real time. To get to this point, businesses need to first identify business-level engagement goals, then set campaign-level goals.
It's essential to start with company-wide objectives to stay focused on the bigger picture while you work out the details. With these broader objectives in mind, determine the touch points your audience will go through before making a conversion, and the metrics that will be used to measure their success.
For instance, if your company is focusing on increasing the lifetime value of its average customer, the important touch points are going to be those that occur after the initial purchase. Looking at email open rates, remarketing click-through rates and customer reviews can all be effective engagement metrics for measuring this key business goal.
Generally, your metrics will fall into one of three buckets:
- Exposure metrics: Reach, impressions, scale, volume
- Engagement metrics: Clicks, views, likes, shares
- Effectiveness metrics: Sales, referrals, customer reviews
Once you identified your touch points and metrics, it's time to map your touch points to stages in the customer journey.
Correlating Digital Marketing Efforts to Stages in the Journey
Top marketers view the sales funnel as a loop rather than a linear path. Your customer journey shouldn't end at conversion, but rather continue to referrals, positive customer reviews and repeat business.
As such, your funnel (which may be unique for every company) may include awareness, consideration, purchase, then referral or repeat. Determine what this looks like for your business goals, then map it to the touch points and metrics you've identified.
In general, your paid and owned media help you spread awareness and educate people about your service or product. Earned media like social following or email lists tend to include leads that are closer to the middle or bottom of the sales funnel.
Typically, paid media like advertising will be top-of-the-funnel efforts because you're paying to have your brand broadcast to an unknown audience. Owned media include your website, app and any other digital assets you've built or commissioned. You have a high level of control over your paid and owned media, so experiment, A/B test, track and analyze to a granular degree to measure engagement across these channels.
You have less control over your earned media, which includes social media following, organic rankings and email lists. You can optimize and strategize to build these areas, but ultimately the market decides the robustness of your earned media. Make no mistake, though, your following and rankings are a clear indicator of your engagement, so don't ignore social media or SEO.
Multichannel Attribution for Customer Engagement
By organizing your touch points by stage in the funnel, you gain a more cohesive view of your digital marketing efforts and how they interact. Additionally, it gives you a framework for advanced attribution that can measure engagement at each touch point, allowing you to see what's working and what's not.
First, we must mention that to successfully use any of the attribution models we'll be discussing, you will need to have tracking in place. You can use a pixel to identify and track users, or you can use Google Analytics or your CRM. The job will likely require your tech team and help from your digital marketing agency, but it will be well worth it.
The difficulty of tracking across channels is a main reason why some companies — even very large ones — still simply use last-touch attribution to determine the source of sales or leads. The problem with last-touch attribution is that it doesn't give you the full picture of the customer journey and can give you a skewed view of the efficacy of certain channels.
For example, if your analytics show a huge bump in sales stemming from an email promotion, you might be inclined to focus more of your energy on email. But without multitouch attribution, you don't know the content those users viewed or the social posts they engaged with before that email came through and sealed the deal.
Some attribution models take this full journey into account. Google defined some multitouch models you may use or modify to attribute engagement and sales across channels:
- Linear: This attribution model gives equal credit to all touch points visited throughout a customer journey
- Time Decay: Weighs the touch points closer to conversion heavier than those higher in the funnel
- Position-based: Gives most credit to first and last touch points, and distributes the rest among middle points
Much like your funnel itself, the attribution model you choose may be unique depending on the resources put into a channel, the average duration of your customer journey, the value of a lead or the difficulty in obtaining a lead.
If you choose a custom attribution model, make sure you have the best minds on your team working on it. Measuring customer engagement across channels requires coordination and expertise, which can be augmented with the right team and agency behind you.