After AOL’s and Google’s respective acquisitions of Convertro and Adometry, the space held by independent marketing attribution vendors immediately shrank.
Remaining companies include Visual IQ, C3 Metrics, DataSong, DC Storm, and Encore Metrics. But what is the future of these attribution pure-plays as enterprise stacks invest in cross-channel technologies?
“I see a complete collision course with data-management platforms (DMPs), tag management systems (TMS) and attribution companies,” said Tina Moffett, research analyst and an author of Forrester Research’s Wave for Attribution Vendors. “If you think about [all of the data] they’re collecting, they can build advanced, sophisticated analytics on top of it.”
These collisions are most evident in the marketing cloud space, where point solutions join enterprise stacks via acquisition. Consider Adobe’s purchases of web analytics provider Omniture, DMP Demdex and TMS Satellite.
For instance, Visual IQ, a rumored acquisition target, recently extended integrations with Adobe’s DMP AudienceManager, adding data around conversion likelihood and customer lifetime value. At the same time, Adobe Analytics users got access to Visual IQ “TrueMetrics” data.
“We wanted advertisers to trust our data and the recommendations coming out of our system,” commented Manu Mathew, cofounder and CEO of Visual IQ, of the company’s partner strategy. “We think of attribution beyond broad-based measurement… folks are recognizing that attribution is a very strategic component in the long run as [media gets more programmatic.] You need a brain behind it that determines what’s working and what’s not.”
As for Visual IQ’s acquisition prospects? “We’ve been growing rapidly for the last two and a half years, [experiencing] triple-digit growth year-over-year and we’re focused on driving market penetration…we don’t have any plans at this point to be acquired.”
Regardless of what happens to Visual IQ specifically, ad tech providers continue to integrate marketing attribution capabilities. TMS is one example of a technology that began with a basic premise (organize all of the tags firing on a web page) and has since expanded. TMS providers Qubit and Ensighten for instance, both claim to have marketing attribution capabilities.
Graham Cooke, who worked on Google conversion products for four years before cofounding tag management and Web personalization company Qubit in 2010, said the value in attribution is in understanding one-time actions as well as the journey of visitors who come back multiple times and ultimately convert.
“With this data, you can then action it through anything from changing bids according to the customer journey [via an API] all the way through to personalization, [such as] what to show the user when it's their third visit and they’re ready to buy vs. their first,” he said.
The promise of TMS, which wrangles data signals from numerous site tags, is that marketers gain insight into media performance onsite, offsite and offline, said Wolfgang Allisat, SVP, international for Ensighten. Allisat said Ensighten has added attribution capabilities to its portfolio as a result of the company’s recent acquisition of competing TMS provider TagMan.
“[Qubit has] always treated attribution as another data point in a much wider sphere of visitor behavior analytics that [when] combined with personalization can really reduce CPAs and drive revenues,” Cooke said.
Still, Cooke acknowledged that the most neutral owner or activator of attribution data needs to be the system that can bid on the most interaction channels, such as search, retargeting display and social. “I think [this] puts DSPs [demand-side platforms] in the best position, combined with the systems that can drive conversion rates.”