TUMI’s Charlie Cole On The Limits Of Last Click Attribution

Even as shopper journeys become more difficult to track, the need for accurate attribution increases. It’s become a major challenge for retailers to understand how every single touch point influences the road to purchase.

“Attribution is a very nebulous thing,” said Charlie Cole, VP and Chief Digital Officer at TUMI, when kicking off his RIC17 session titled: Attribution: A Simple Way To Apply It To Your Business.

Think about President Donald Trump’s media impressions, Cole told the audience. He referenced Trump’s Wikipedia page, which listed numerous mentions of his name, including comics, hip hop songs and movies such as Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. The result? All of those varied media impressions somehow impacted the election results of November 2016, according to Cole.

“There’s a really good chance that marketing attribution just led to a new President,” said Cole. “And I mean that, but it’s hard to understand which one of those things and people did what.”


Forget Last Click

The first rule of basic attribution: don’t start with last click attribution. “[Last click] is not the way to manage a business,” said Cole. “Attribution — at its core — is understanding how to market your brand on more than a last click basis.

Cole continued to showcase an example of an attribution journey:

  1. A customer views a TUMI display ad on, does not click on it, and later visits the web site via an organic search. This is a view through conversion.
  2. The customer goes on and types in luggage, finds, visits the web site, but does not buy. This is a first click conversion.
  3. The customer signs up for the email list, opens the email, clicks on the email, but does not buy.
  4. The customer is on, sees a new ad, clicks on the ad, but does not buy.
  5. A customer receives an email, clicks on the email and buys. This is last click conversion.

“You have to have a single source of truth for this stuff,” said Cole. “View through conversion is a moving target, because you have to give it an attribution window. So I have to come up with an arbitrary barrier and say, ‘If somebody watches my video and in the next 30 days, buys from, I’m going to give that a high five and I will attribute it somewhat to that video.’”

Multiple Attribution Tools Available

“When talking about attribution, you have to understand the data tools in your hands,” said Cole. He described three tools he uses at TUMI for attribution:

  1. Google Analytics. A free model comparison tool and a good starting point;
  2. DSP, or Demand Side Platform, which allows marketers to buy advertising around a range of publishers; and
  3. DMP, or Data Management Platform, which allows for de-duplication of devices, pulls in first- and third-party data and layers in attribution metrics.

Attribution Analysis Could Help More Traditional Marketing

There are many forms of marketing that could benefit from more rigorous attribution analysis. Cole provided four examples of things that, for years, “marketing dropped money on without a second thought.”

  1. Magazines: The circulation of Vogue, for example, is approximately 1.4 million. Therefore, while a marketer knows that this many people will see an ad, it’s difficult to attribute a consumer’s next actions after seeing the ad.
  2. Store frontage: “This is a great example of marketing attribution that is hard to prove,” said Cole. The Apple Cube, for instance, has a high public profile that isn’t necessarily matched by actual sales. “It doesn’t matter how many people went into it, all that matters is that it got so much hype that it has become a ubiquitous piece of American trivia.”
  3. Out of home, such as billboards: “It’s amazing to think we are spending thousands or millions in out-of-home and have absolutely no way to prove what it does.”
  4. Fashion shows: “Victoria’s Secret is my favorite example of one that has worked, because shared impressions are more valuable that the impressions of people watching or people there.”

“We do this in retail without a second thought and we do it in a way that we don’t expect accountability,” said Cole. “But when we talk about attribution in a modern day world, accountability has to be expected. More importantly, it has to be demanded.”  



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