We all live on our smartphones and mobile devices. Demand for experiences on mobile, whether in-app or the mobile web, isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon. Yet the majority of brands miss the mark when it comes to holistic attribution, and could be overlooking ways to improve ROI from mobile activity.

Those brands that want more bang for their marketing buck should ensure they join the dots of their customer journey to ensure all channels are as effective as they can be. Here’s how:

Get a clear view of what’s working

The customer journey has evolved. In fact, it’s constantly evolving thanks to the introduction of new ad formats and channels. But it means the path to purchase is more complicated.

Now, brands can interact with their customers around the clock on any given device and channel. While this is good news for marketers to engage with the ‘always on’ consumer, so many touch points have resulted in extremely complex digital ecosystems. This presents a challenge for marketers, as it’s difficult to understand the impact that each touch point is responsible for.

Today’s marketers know the importance of moment-led, cohesive user experiences but many are challenged by siloed technologies and fragmented data sources. This isn’t helped by many marketers using outdated, traditional attribution models such as last-click – meaning they either don’t have sight (or a limited view) of what is actually delivering results.

Working with the right partner to collect first-party data from key offline and onsite sources – be it digital ads, apps, email, videos – and unifying these sources, can create a 360° view of the customer. This simplified picture of consumers can effectively highlight which parts of the journey are working, need tweaking, or are redundant and can be cut out of the mix.

This should all make good marketing sense. However, a lot of marketers still regard holistic attribution as ‘a nice to have’.

Tag management plays a pivotal role in good attribution

A tag is a piece of code designed to collect data for a third party and can create cookies on a consumer’s device. They help measure traffic – informing brands of who’s visiting and what they’re doing – delivering essential information for the marketing team to analyse and act on.

A customer may be looking for a new jacket online, for example. A typical Tag Management System (TMS) will collect the search data and provide it to various analytics programs to track the demand for that particular product. Without a TMS, marketers can’t control when a tag fires to pick up a user’s movements, and with the visitor moving from page to page, they sometimes won’t be tracked at all. This is a problem.

TMS is key to a better attribution strategy – not only does it ensure marketers understand the customer journey, it enables brands to track and constantly improve the experience – giving consumers a reason to engage with them again.

Take advantage of in-app activity

In-app activity is proving to be the driver for mobile expansion, already representing more than half of mobile ad spend worldwide, according to PubMatic’s Q2 Quarterly Mobile Index.

It’s no real surprise given the value it offers. Not only do consumers have a constant reminder of the brand on their home screen and can access it whenever and wherever they are: it also means consumers are focussed on the content hosted there versus being distracted by other browsers.

For optimised in-app experiences, brands often employ a Software Development Kit (SDK) – a piece of code in the back end of an app which enables app tracking. This allows brands to monitor their customers’ habits across multiple platforms in a simple way and create a holistic view of how they browse online. But an SDK can significantly limit marketing agility by requiring marketers to identify upfront what to track in an app. If a marketer wants to collect new data they would need to go through the process again.

Just like the way digital ecosystems have evolved with new marketing tools and channels, the way they are managed and measured has too. Marketers shouldn’t have to choose between a clear snapshot of consumer behaviour and being agile. They should be able to change, and improve, the customer journey in real time. Moving forward, brands can benchmark the performance of their in-app activity and determine how they optimise ROI.

In the new data economy, where consumers are savvy about what (and how) personal data is used, learning and improving the overall customer experience is vital – it isn’t ‘a nice to have’. Holistic attribution is essential to achieving this and better serving customers on mobile.