Impact of Time in Attribution

All we see on the apple tree in spring is a flower–the apple blossom.  Where is the apple we ask?  After all, it’s an apple tree.  But wisdom tells us that what we see in spring is not final.  The journey from flower to apple will indeed be there in the natural course of time.

A consumer’s journey from top of funnel to conversion is equally important, and like the apple…can’t always be forced.

When it comes to marketing and attribution modeling, time is perhaps the most critical element to understand because like apples, consumers ripen at their own rate (not yours).

Last click measurement paints a siloed, stunted story.  But once measurement is viewed in context of attribution modeling, the days to conversion are longer than the last click imagined data.

Why so important?

If you were to harvest the Pink Lady apple halfway through its blossom to harvest cycle…all there would be to harvest would be flowers.  The process is not complete:  no fruit.

Measure your attribution marketing campaigns too early, and you too won’t be harvesting any fruit (only an incomplete picture).

If the median days to conversion for a particular advertiser is 11 days, you’ll need to wait at least 11 days to evaluate the effectiveness of a campaign.  For certain types of campaigns like programmatic display where the machine learning inputs on a new campaign adjust to new data, it may take two or three full cycles (22-33 days using this example) given the nature of programmatic technology.  For non-brand search, it will likely be one full cycle.  In the world of apples different environments (temperature, geography, airflow) will also affect the days from blossom to harvest.

The key take-away, though is the importance of time.

The media dollars you spend today won’t typically result in a conversion today.

I f your median days to conversion happens to be 23 days, the media dollars you spend on the first of the month, won’t result in a conversion until the 23rd of the month.  Quiz:  your CPA or ROAS will look bad for how many weeks?  Answer:  three weeks.  Why?  You have to wait for the full cycle of 23 days to take its course until the conversions appear.

Another quiz:  cut back a non-performing partner or tactic, what will happen in your attribution marketing dashboard?  Answer:  their CPA or ROAS looks much better.  Why, because there is much less spend yet the blossom to harvest timeline of the consumer takes its natural course.  Both quiz’s demonstrate the exact same thing:  distance between blossom to harvest.

So when it comes to measurement with attribution marketing and modeling, understand your own median days to conversion and the fact that the media dollars you spend today won’t result in a conversion today, but one full cycle later.

  • Retail is typically 1-3 weeks.
  • Technology is typically 2-5 weeks.
  • Weight Loss is typically 3-7 weeks depending on time of year.
  • Education is typically 2-3 months.
  • Pink Lady apple:  7 months
  • Macintosh Apple:  5 months.

Once you have attribution modeling in place (your orchard) you will know how to pick your apples.