Can Retailers Leverage the Power of TV Attribution for Holiday Sales Success?

Ashley Deibert

Fact: TV still commands $70B a year in ad spend and those ads reach 87% of people over 18. Yet regardless of the facts, it seems as though the industry has been writing off TV for sometime now.

 As more marketers demand direct attribution to their dollars, TV’s “awareness-only” play didn’t make the grade. Now, the gap in TV’s role to influence the path-to-purchase is only growing. In eMarketer’s latest retail trends report, TV didn’t even make the cut in terms of a channel credited with influencing the path-to-purchase.

So here we are on the cusp of holiday shopping season, where nearly every retailer is gearing up for their biggest revenue period of the year. It’s tempting for them to throw their efforts at digital because it can accurately identify direct response metrics and behaviors—and TV simply can’t, right?


The reality is that TV does play a pivotal role in the path-to-purchase. It’s that retailers simply haven’t had the data to attribute those investments back to literal business outcomes.

So to be clear, TV’s ability isn’t in question, it’s simply that brands are spending billions of marketing dollars a year on a medium that hasn’t been able to accurately attribute ROI. Because TV data typically only reveals who’s seeing what and where—but not what the resulting awareness means in terms of generating engagement or purchases beyond the spot or campaign—this means that for an industry that is heavily reliant on direct response success, half their story is essentially missing.

The OmniChannel Attribution Challenge

We live in an era of choice: dozens of over-the-top (OTT) devices, smart TVs, mobile devices and thousands of channels. When it comes to TV, retailers have much more to think about than just reaching audiences and making an emotional connection. They must also ensure they make literal connections across devices and locations.

The path-to-purchase is paved with a lot noise, and with shoppers hopping in and out of digital and brick-and-mortar experiences, successful retailers should carefully prepare for each possible journey and leverage their data successfully to focus on the drivers that achieve purchase and loyalty. And these days, TV fits this model just as neatly as any other channel, and in fact, where it can be even better than some, is its ability to provide local, household-level viewing data that makes it truly quantifiable and measurable.

By allowing advertisers to tie local purchase data to measurable ROI, both directly after the fact and over time, it’s fair to say TV is making a comeback as a direct response contender—and that attribution might actually be possible, after all.

Household-level data is crucial to unlocking true “TV attribution” and answering key questions such as, “How many times did my target audience see my ad?” “What was the resulting action from that household: did they visit a nearby store?” “Go to our website?” By marrying smart TV data with household level IP activity, TV can get one step closer to a measuring direct response and ROI of TV spend—and back to understanding if those holiday investments are doing the trick.

Once retailers begin to make attribution a priority, the possibilities are endless with TV as a true direct response channel, and a retention and loyalty tool.

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