Best PracticesDealership MarketingDealership Operations & Processes

He Gets That From Your Side of the Family: The Myth of Attribution

When things go right, people hope to claim credit for it. When they go wrong, the blame must be pointed elsewhere.

This is how it has gone with children and sales. When your child gets straight A’s, they get it from the mom. When they are cuter than cute, well that’s good genes on mom’s side. When the child is funny and popular and gifted, thank the mom’s side of the family. When the child smarts off or gets in trouble, it’s dad’s fault. Somehow. And moms will let dads know. “He gets that from your side of the family.”

This same dichotomy exists in sales. When sales volume is up, the team must have worked harder to make it happen. Our marketing did what it was supposed to do this month. Lead providers, digital solutions, and direct mail partners rejoice. It was single-handedly each of them that are responsible for the uptick. Right? Wrong.

Attribution has been a hot topic in automotive for the last two years, and every vendor is chasing the elusive ROI medal. What can we do to claim credit for the sales at your store? How can we show you a report tracked back to that initial intent that gives us ownership of positive results?

Truth is, “attribution” is a myth.

To claim “attribution” for a sale, it means you’re acknowledging they’re responsible for that customer purchasing. A far stretch given the amount of research conducted online in advance.

I believe in last click attribution the same way I believe in the zero moment of truth. There is also a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 24th, 58th and countless other moments of truths and clicks that result in a customer deciding to buy. There is also the handshake. The location of the store. The inventory availability. The personality of the salesperson. The reputation of the dealership. The urgency of the shopper’s need to purchase.

Far too many variables make up a sale to warrant anyone source attribution. We are now in an age of influence. This is what sales tactics were initially anyway, correct?

The many different dollars you dedicate to multiple marketing initiatives all have the ability to influence. Admittedly, some are more influential than others. The consumer’s path to purchase doesn’t dictate attribution, but rather the many places/sites/people/research that influenced their next course of action. Some influence weighs heavier than others, but no single solitary provider should take credit for a sale. They don’t deserve “attribution”. They deserve a level of influence.

I know people will say, doesn’t this work in favor of the vendors if they don’t need to prove ROI. To that I say, yes and no. Enough analytic stacks exist in the market able to be layered on top of Google Analytics that can show a client’s research, click-path, flow, and digital footprint. Yet you can’t maintain it was solely their digital path that solves the entire puzzle to a shopper’s inevitable purchasing decision.

So I urge you, don’t get caught up spending hours trying to determine who deserves credit for every good and bad aspect of your store’s sales performance. It’s akin to denying your spouse any influence on the best traits and quirks of your child. There is rarely a single word answer to explain the result.

Sales and children are products of their environments, and everything you feed into them over time to help them grow will play a part in their success or failure. Use the analytics at your disposal, research additional analytic stacks, and seek to determine which sources offer the most consistent influence of website visits, lead generation, showroom traffic and sales volume. Just recognize you’re looking to see what the influence is, as influence is ongoing.

Influence takes place online, in person, in their home, in their mind, and from their environment. Attribution of a sale, much like the cause of a child’s misbehavior, cannot be pinpointed by looking at a solitary report.

Seek to understand the influences in behavior, not the answer for them.

Automotive trainer and consultant. I'm also a writer, speaker, movie buff, and Dad. --President of DealerKnows--