New Research Explores How DTC Ecommerce Brands Measure Performance and Optimize Ad Spend

Majority of marketers still rely on flawed attribution methods and struggle to connect advertising to business results

Measured, the leading spend optimization platform for DTC advertisers, released The State Of DTC Marketing Measurement, a new research report that explores how direct to consumer (DTC) marketers are navigating budget optimization and measurement challenges associated with ongoing upheaval in the advertising industry. Based on a recent survey of DTC marketers, conducted by media metrics consultancy Sequent Partners, the report reveals where marketers are allocating their ad spend, how they collect and manage data for performance reporting, and what tools and technology they are using to connect media investments to business results.

“New privacy rules restricting user-level tracking and shortening attribution lookback windows have had a significant impact on measurement systems and capabilities for media platforms and attribution vendors,” said Alice Sylvester, Partner at Sequent Partners. “These challenges, added to rapid shifts in consumer behavior caused by unpredictable global events, have kept marketers in reactive mode for the past few years. This research captures the current mindset of DTC marketers and evaluates how they are preparing for an unpredictable future.”

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Survey responses were collected from 300+ DTC marketers, director level and above. Some of key findings include:

  • The greatest challenge for DTC marketers is accessing and synthesizing accurate data from disparate sources.
  • 64% of DTC marketers spend over nine hours per week on reporting activities, with some roles spending upwards of 25 hours per week compiling performance reports.
  • Despite reported inaccuracies, more than 80% of DTC marketers still rely on click-based data as their primary source of media measurement.
  • Marketers overwhelmingly agree experiments and testing significantly improve their decision-making confidence.

Last touch is hard to quit

Despite the well-documented inaccuracies of last-click attribution, most DTC marketers are still using data from platform reporting as their primary form of measurement. 69% of marketers indicate data accuracy as a main concern, yet 81% are confident in their ability to tie media spend to business results. Findings indicate brands are either performing additional analytics, like incrementality experiments, to get a clearer picture, or they’re hazardously taking platform data at face value.

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Experiments lead to confident decision-making

The methods least used currently by marketers as their primary form of measurement are incrementality experiments (4.7%) and multi-touch attribution (MTA), at 2.5%. As privacy-related challenges continue to erode the validity and popularity of MTA, marketers are increasing investments in tools and technology for in-market testing and experimentation, which can be executed without tracking users. 80.2% of respondents say testing and experiments make them more confident about media decisions.

Data is more abundant, but still unmanageable

With data management issues topping the list of challenges faced by DTC marketers, it is unsurprising that reporting efforts take up so much of their time. In contrast, the vast majority of marketers (82.4%) state that they have a single source of truth for marketing data. The contradiction suggests these systems are still inadequate for normalizing data from disparate sources and providing fast and reliable access to cross-channel insights.

“While the landscape has changed a lot and the past few years have been turbulent for so many reasons, what marketers want has remained consistent. They need to know where to put the next dollar for the best possible results – and they need to trust where they’re getting the answers,” said Trevor Testwuide, CEO and co-founder of Measured. “For brands, this research confirms that they are not alone in the seemingly endless pursuit of reliable insights. For Measured, it confirms where we need to focus our energy to provide the most value for our clients and guide them to a successful future.”

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