How should automotive dealerships think of attribution? Is last-touch attribution dead, and what should dealers do with the attribution data they collect, however imperfect it is? These and other questions were the focus of a DealerRefresh Roundtable, hosted by Ryan Gerardi, founder and CEO of AutoConversion. During the roundtables, sponsored by, automotive thought leaders discuss trends affecting auto dealers. The attribution roundtable, shared publicly on January 5, included the following participants:

  • Ed Brooks,
  • Ryan Gerardi, DealerRefresh
  • Jeff Kershner, DealerRefresh
  • Chris K. Leslie, Henderson Chevrolet
  • Bill Playford, DealerKnows Consulting

The theme of the conversation was “How Can Attribution Data Be Utilized by Dealers?” Participants answered the question through a lively 30-minute conversation. A few of the highlights:

Last-touch versus Multi-Touch Attribution

Chris Leslie indicated that he relies on last-touch attribution because multi-touch is still in its early stages of evolution. “There are so many different versions of what a multi-touch attribution model looks like,” he said. “At some point in the year I have to ask my bosses for an allotment of money for digital advertising. I need to base that allotment on results. With last-touch attribution, I actually have to have numbers that make sense of our digital advertising investment.” Chris added that not enough companies are providing reliable multi-touch attribution tools.

Ed Brooks suggested that multi-touch attribution is more advanced than some might think. “There is more than one company providing multi-touch attribution,” he said. “Clarivoy is the most prevalent. Transparency is doing something similar. More players are joining the party.” Ed indicated that industries outside automotive are far more advanced in their ability to measure the customer journey beyond the last click – and it’s only a matter of time before auto catches up.

Attribution in Context

Ed Brooks also urged dealerships to look beyond using attribution data solely to measure sales lift. “It’s about influence, not 100 percent about the lead. The lead is the tip of the iceberg. I want to look at the big picture. If I can present my dealers with a clearer idea of the influence we are helping them attain in the marketplace, it helps justify the spend on”

Bill Playford cautioned that attribution is only useful when dealerships take action on the data. “If you are going to do something with what you measure, attribution makes sense. But I don’t know if measuring ad spend is that important when you are carpet bombing areas that never convert with your advertising – and that happens all the time everywhere. It’s like training for a marathon while running around the block, smoking a cigarette, and eating a cheeseburger.”

He cautioned that dealerships lacking a good process for managing their digital marketing spend based on attribution are wasting their money. “Everyone offers a dashboard,” he said. “But what does a pie chart do for a dealership? Are you going to cut spending in certain areas based on the data? If you have a terrible process, what does it matter if you have great advertising channel management?”

What’s Missing in Attribution?

Participants generally agreed that attribution doesn’t track shopper intent. As Ryan Gerardi said, “What you don’t know about that person – why they are there and what their intent is. Dealers need to know what they are after.”

Participants agreed that attribution is a work in progress but that tools are evolving. Understanding customer intent remains a major challenge that requires a richer, deeper conversation. Click here to see the entire roundtable. We’ll publish highlights of other DealerRefresh Roundtables on GrowWithCars.