March 1, 2011, 12:00 AM

Giving credit where it's due

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The additional information also helps Drs. Foster and Smith better allocate advertising spend among advertising channels. While the paid search and comparison shopping engines account for most of its ad spend, attribution data helps to determine how much the retailer should also spend on display ads.

Armed with data about how frequently various advertising services contribute to sales, a retailer can use that information to negotiate better terms with comparison shopping engines or display ad networks. "I can say that a certain cost-per-thousand rate won't work for us because I know how display ads and other channels are contributing to sales," Stelter says.

Marin also provides reports that show how ads on Facebook play a role in leading to sales. A Marin report from an unidentified marketer (see chart above), for example, shows that when a consumer's path to purchase begins with a click on a Facebook ad and leads to Google paid search ads, that consumer is more likely to buy than someone who began with a click on a paid search ad. Matt Lawson, vice president of marketing for Marin, says such reports also show that informational Facebook ads are more likely to turn into sales later on than hard-sell pitches.

Although Facebook isn't in the current advertising mix at Drs. Foster and Smith, it's just beginning to play a role in the advertising strategy of Oneida. Going forward, Oneida's Ruggeri expects to get attribution data, similar to what Marin makes available, from the new LXRRRetailMC online advertising management and performance monitoring tool the tableware retailer recently deployed from NetElixir, a provider of online marketing products and services.

Eyes on Facebook
Instead of seeing only that an online purchase was preceded by a click on an ad that Oneida ran on a comparison shopping site, Ruggeri can now see if the shopper first clicked on a paid search ad and then a social network ad before clicking the comparison shopping site ad. "This will give the insight on advertising opportunities that may have appeared too costly before," he says.

For example, he'll be able to see if it's worth spending more for particular keywords or keyword placement in search results, or whether it's effective to spend on placement in particular comparison shopping engines.

Ruggeri says that, for now, he'll use the NetElixir tool to both manage and monitor the performance of paid search, about 10 comparison shopping engines and ads that he's just starting to place on Facebook.

Eventually, Ruggeri expects to use the tool to also monitor the performance of additional advertising channels that he doesn't manage through NetElixir, including affiliate sites managed through the Commission Junction network and e-mail marketing campaigns Oneida runs in-house with ExactTarget e-mail management software.

"This will help me allocate marketing spend for optimum return on investment," Ruggeri says. But he cautions: "I still don't know anyone who has cracked the code to completely attribute sales to particular online ads, but this will give me more information to make better decisions."

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