These platforms, in their default out-of-the-box installations, provide data, but often not intelligent insights

BY November 18

A question that often arises in talking about Multi-Touch Sales Attribution, one of Clarivoy’s core products, is: “How are you doing anything different from what Google Analytics already does for me?”

Well, Multi-Touch Sales Attribution incorporates offline sales data and connects ALL the online AND offline marketing touchpoints on a consumer’s purchase path to the eventual sale. Google Analytics on the other hand, lives in the online world only.

Before I go any further, I want to be clear: free analytics tools or platforms, such as Google Analytics, absolutely have their place in a marketer’s bag of tricks. However, while I am not out to end the use of Google Analytics, I want to underscore the downside of relying exclusively on these type of tools. Throughout my 17 years in the digital marketing sector, I have seen an over-reliance on Google Analytics and other web analytics solutions. These platforms, in their default out-of-the-box installations, provide data, but often not intelligent insights.

While marketers are lulled into believing that an out-of-the-box implementation is good enough to get accurate information for their marketing decisions, these free tools only focus on online activity. With so many reports, all the data a marketer needs must be in there somewhere, right? In actuality, what marketers end up with is last-touch, online only attribution.

Google Analytics measures site activity, but not what’s important: SALES! Google Analytics enables you to measure the success of your marketing based on clicks, cost per click, website traffic, number of leads and vehicle detail pages (VDPs) amongst others. Unfortunately, those metrics don’t offer information as to exactly what impacted sales. That is why we call them vanity metrics. How do you improve your marketing and increase sales solely using vanity metrics? Optimizing on those vanity metrics feels productive, but is it, really?

The reality is that Google Analytics only gives you part of the entire picture. You are only looking at digital marketing activities. Looking for marketing insights from only part of the picture may drive you to the wrong conclusions.

For the advanced marketer, Google does offer a more robust analytics platform called Google Analytics 360 (formerly known as “Premium”). This paid platform is intended to solve many of the issues that enterprise customers may have with the free version: for example faster data processing, higher quotas, and a rudimentary version of attribution analytics.

Ultimately, Google Analytics 360 has many of the same issues as the free version. The CMO of a very large auto group recently told me he canceled Google Analytics 360 as he felt the value was just not there. For this sophisticated marketer to say “No, Thanks” to Google’s premium tool speaks volumes about the usefulness of its metrics. While these tools do deliver a substantial amount of information, they lack the substance to actually help optimize marketing decisions because the information delivered isn’t based upon data about what actually caused that sale to happen!

Sadly, in my opinion, free web analytics solutions have given rise to a lackadaisical approach to marketing and website optimization. The attitude is, “Just put Google Analytics on the site…simple…we’re done now.” Such a position has created a laissez faire attitude toward performance objectives. It’s as if Google Analytics lets marketers off the hook — they’re not held accountable for their true performance or the performance of their marketing initiatives. Relative ignorance has become acceptable.

This ignorance manifests itself in several ways. Google Analytics, by default, gives 100 percent of the sales credit to the last (non-direct) touch. For the vast majority of dealerships, this last touch comes from a brand search for the dealership’s name. As a result, many sales leads are wrongly attributed to search, because most marketers just look at the overall impact of search, and don’t drill down into what keywords actually sell the cars. And, as ignorance is bliss, they invest more into that channel and then pull back on the very marketing campaigns — display ads, social, TV, etc. – that ARE actually triggering consumers to search for the dealership in the first place.

Consider the following scenario. A customer first discovers your dealership via a third-party auto listing site. Then they come back to your site later by searching your dealer name on Google and clicking on an AdWords listing, which perhaps was right above a free Google organic listing for your website. By default, in Google Analytics, that AdWords click took 100% credit for that visitor, assuming as a fact that it was incredibly valuable, when it may have had no impact at all on whether or not that sale was made.

To further complicate things, approximately 2 out of 3 of all car buyers do not contact the dealership prior to their first dealership visit. So, “walked in” is the most commonly reported method for how initial contact was established. However, 83 percent of consumers reportedly visited a dealer’s website before stepping into the dealership.

Given these facts, nearly 66 percent of leads sourced as “walk-ins” are incorrectly attributed. And, the remaining leads are attributed on a last-click basis. This is a recipe for disastrous marketing decisions which have a long-lasting ripple effect by reducing or eliminating what are in fact effective marketing channels — display advertising, social, third-party auto listing sites, video and TV. The very channels that keep the dealership top-of-mind throughout the consumer purchase path and trigger consumers to search for a dealership. Even Google underscores the importance of using a variety of mediums to trigger brand searches in their study: “Vehicle Shopper Path to Purchase Study.”

While Google Analytics is touted as “free,” we all know nothing in life is really free. It’s a fallacy to believe there are no costs involved. There are real costs, in dollars, to managing Google Analytics in a way that gives true and valuable insights to marketing. This includes the huge hidden cost of incorrectly allocating marketing spend to the WRONG channels and losing out on the lift that the RIGHT channels would give you.

In addition to investing in modern digital analytics, don’t abandon traditional tried and true advertising tactics that have served you well for years. Instead, find a partner that can help to measure and analyze the effectiveness of marketing for the entire purchase path of all your customers– offline, online and everywhere in between. Then make decisions based on real attribution data, not data which is biased towards an attribution model that benefits the company providing free analytics tools. You’ll find your decisions are more beneficial and will see that your marketing spend is much better optimized. And because of that, you’ll sell more cars.