Attribution is Changing: Google, The Death of Last-Click, and Car Dealership Marketing

By Jazel Auto Marketing

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Last-click attribution has been one of the standard car dealership marketing ROI measures for a long time. It is common practice among many dealerships to evaluate marketing on last-click attribution. But last-click is flawed. Marketers know it. Advertisers know it. Dealers know it. Thankfully, last-click is on its last legs. 2018 may very well be the year we see dealers abandon last-click attribution for good. Here’s the situation:


Data Measurement and Car Dealers

Attribution is always a difficult thing to get right. It seems like there’s always controversy and contention when it comes to how to measure car dealership marketing success. One thing we do know is that dealers, for the most part, aren’t thrilled about their data measurement. In fact, only 30% of dealers report being satisfied with how they currently measure their data. That isn’t too shocking, though it is unfortunate. Dealerships are multi-faceted businesses, with about as many moving parts as the products they sell, and measuring each campaign in each marketing channel for each department can get overwhelming.

Dealers who feel like they’re getting left behind when it comes to attribution aren’t alone. 30% of car dealers think attribution and analytics are important, but don’t know where to begin, and 20% do not know anything about marketing attribution. If you might count yourself among the half of dealers who want to know more about attribution (or you just need a refresher), keep reading. This post is for you.


Last-Click Attribution

Right now, there’s a revolution going on in the attribution kingdom. First-click/Last-click (mostly called last-click, or LCA) is losing the throne to multi-touch attribution. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’re going over LCA.

Last-click attribution (LCA) is more or less what its name implies. LCA gives credit for a conversion to the customer’s last click. This isn’t always a problem for businesses that sell products with very short paths to purchase, but one of the main challenges of car dealership marketing is the unusual length of the buyer journey. For example, if someone has been clicking your ads for weeks, but never converting, then finally googles your dealership one day, goes to your website, and submits a lead on a VDP, LCA would give the credit to that organic search. On the other side, if someone has been coming to your website for weeks, but not converting, then sees an ad, clicks on it, and converts, that ad will get all the credit, even though your website has been quietly nurturing that lead. All in all, LCA is just unfair. If marketing were football, LCA would be like only giving a Superbowl ring to the last player to score points.

The answer to LCA is multi-touch attribution. Multi-touch attribution is a model of ROI calculation that involves looking at car dealership marketing influence through the whole customer journey, rather than the last moment before a sale. Multi-touch attribution as an idea has been around for a while, but the vast majority of dealers are still stuck in LCA.

A study just last year by Digital Dealer revealed that 77% of dealers still use first and last click attribution. But what do dealers want from their attribution? Most desired is ‘the ROI contribution of each marketing channel’, closely followed by ‘analytics that deliver accountable insights,’ then a ‘transparent view of a customer’s full purchase path,’ and finally ‘reporting accountability and accuracy.’ Dealers are fed up with LCA, which is excellent because so is Google.


Google’s Attribution Advances

Google Analytics currently uses last-click attribution. In fact, one of the main reasons that most dealers still use LCA is because Google Analytics does. And we don’t blame them. Multi-touch attribution isn’t exactly a breeze to set up, and as we already mentioned, most car dealers are honestly too busy with more pressing matters to bother. But thankfully, it doesn’t have to stay this way.

Last spring, Google finally announced their plan to kill last-click attribution. Google is currently offering the beta of a new Platform called Google Attributes, a multi-touch attribution platform independent of (but integrated with) Google Analytics, AdWords, and Doubleclick.

Attributions uses data-driven machine learning to assign a weighted value to each specific touch-point along the shopper’s journey, allowing dealers to see the exact amount of credit due to each of their marketing channels. The intention of Google Attributes is to help businesses learn the efficacy of ad dollars across different marketing channels and devices.

The abilities of Google Attributes (a strange phrase, we know), include being able to track the customer journey across their devices, displaying the behavior of your conversions against those who don’t convert, and integrating with your advertising platforms and Google Analytics.


Attribution and Car Dealership Marketing

The potential for car dealership marketing optimization with data from Google Attributes is staggering. Seeing each step of the customer journey, and the true performance of potentially undervalued marketing channels, means that dealers can invest in what works. Along with hidden strengths, proper multi-touch attribution can help car dealerships find weaknesses and stop wasting money on marketing channels that aren’t pulling their weight. The depth of data that Google Attributes makes available could very well open up a treasure box of hitherto undiscovered customer journey insights.

One of the car dealership marketing revelations that dealers might see with multi-touch attribution is the influence of automotive shopping sites like Cars.com. Cars.com and Calirvoy partnered to show the real influence of automotive shopping sites. In their study, the two companies found that dealers are massively underestimating the impact of third-party car shopping websites. In the case of one dealer, using multi-touch attribution revealed 11,390 conversion events that happened on the Cars.com site — last-click attribution on Google Analytics showed 103 conversions.  That’s just one dealer, but with the application of multi-touch attribution through Google Attributes or a similar platform, dealers should expect to see some interesting surprises in their customer paths to purchase.