Data has become the buzzword in business. Everyone’s talking about data — how to gather it, analyse it, and apply it to business strategies.

This intense interest in data is an extension of a renewed focus on marketing accountability. For every dollar spent on advertising, there’s increased pressure on marketing teams to justify the expense and verify the efficacy of each and every marketing channel employed.

The only way for marketing teams to get the most value is to rely on the right data, analyse the information, and attribute conversions to the proper channels. There are three main areas that marketing teams need to focus on for insight into channel attribution:

1. Cross-channel marketing

Digital and social media have changed the marketing game over the past decade, but not every business understands that the customer’s path to conversion needs to be measured across an increasingly complex ecosystem of media sources.

First, business leaders and marketing teams need to figure out how to track and measure the digital-driven actions and behaviours of consumers. It’s vital to not only get a handle on what digital and social media mean for marketing, analytics, and sales, but also to begin incorporating these new forms of data into strategic planning efforts. And to do that, cross-channel marketing is a must.

For example, to reach a wider audience, Land Rover recently launched a campaign that utilised cross-channel marketing. The tactics ranged from placing ads on YouTube to maximising visibility on search engines and Google+. As a result, the company made more than 100 million impressions and saw 15% of its sales come from online leads.

Similarly, my company recently worked with Hot Topic to test ad placement and identify conversion drivers (such as special offers). By applying the techniques we identified as effective, Hot Topic was able to increase revenue by 53%  during back-to-school season and 24% during the holiday season.

2. Consumer influences

Marketers are highly skilled at influencing consumer behaviour through advertising, but they often overlook the significant power of peer influence. In a Nielsen survey, 84% of consumers said they trusted personal recommendations from friends and family the most, and 68% of respondents said they trusted online reviews written by peers. Monitoring social media as a research channel is a powerful (but often untapped) opportunity to truly understand the power of peer influence in today’s market.

Marketers must also take into account how everything from media consumption to peer influence impacts consumer behaviour. Examining the best available resources can show how consumers behave beyond first-party interaction data. And gathering an entire funnel data set will optimize targeted marketing strategies.

However, when marketers try to understand the full funnel of media touchpoints that lead to a conversion, they often find the “most beaten path” to conversion instead. This path doesn’t necessarily capture true consumer behaviour — just the current mix of marketing tactics.

Each brand’s marketing mix and consumer behaviours will be different from the next, so it’s important to test attribution data in a variety of scenarios to reveal the true influencers of consumer behaviour for specific markets.

3. Data analysis

When approaching the massive job of data analysis and channel attribution, it’s important to recognise that no single marketing channel stands alone. Each channel contributes to progressing a consumer to the point of action.

Our company views various channels as parts of a relay team — each takes a customer closer to conversion even though only one channel actually carries the customer across the finish line. When analysing the effectiveness of various channels, it’s important to recognise the efforts of all the players, not just the “winner.”

For example, if someone decides to reserve a rental car because he saw an organic listing, but he clicks on a banner ad to make the actual reservation, the banner ad gets credit for the conversion. That’s because the tracking systems that monitor which data sources actually lead to a conversion aren’t entirely accurate. A tracking system will sometimes count multiple sources as contributing to the same conversion, which makes one purchase appear as two.

Applying data deduplication tactics is important for eliminating this problem, and it will help marketers appropriately attribute credit and encourage collaboration.

Data is increasingly important to every aspect of business, especially marketing. And to ensure that every dollar spent on marketing has maximum impact, marketers must adjust their analytics strategies to allow for accurate channel attribution.