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Big data is forcing marketers to evolve, but big vendors in the key interactive marketing space are still leading the way, according to the new Forrester Wave: Interactive Attribution Vendors , Q2 2012 report.

Before we dive in, let's have Forrester define interactive attribution:

The measurement of the partial value of each interactive marketing contact that contributed to adesired outcome.

Maturing Attribution Vendors

Forrester last looked at this highly adaptive sector in 2009, and two of the same companies that stood out then are still at it and leading the way. While companies like IBM, Google and Adobe are using their Web analytic powers to great advantage, they don't manage that data or have as reliable of account services as companies like Adometry and Visual IQ.  

Interactive attribution vendors in 2012 are more sophisticated and better than they were in 2009, report author Ari Osur wrote, but the category is still far from mature. For potential customers, that likely means there are more options than ever, and that more changes are on the horizon. One thing nearly every company improved on was their increased reliance on algorithmic rather than rules-based attribution.

More vendors are using statistical methods to measure the effectiveness of Web engagement, and in 2009, only one of the companies surveyed was doing so.

Channel Surfing

Forrester asked 53 marketers what they use interactive attribution to measure, and the most common were:

  • Paid Search Marketing (SEM) -- 96%
  • Online display media -- 91%
  • Natural search marketin (SEO) -- 81%
  • Affiliate partners -- 77%
  • Email -- 72%
  • Website analytics (traffic info) -- 57%

Therest of the channels mentioned all came in at less than 50%, and ofthem, Twitter was mentioned the most in the social media category. Thesame 53 marketers were also asked what are the most important factors inchoosing an interactive attribution vendor, and they were; 1) analyticscapabilities; 2) expertise in putting that data to use, and; 3) totalcost.

Interactive Attribution Vendor Evaluation

In order to decide which vendors to measure, Forrester rated more than 60 candidates on these criteria:

Learning Opportunities

  • Cross-channel measurements: Measuring marketing contacts across, online display, search, websites, email, affiliate partners, social media and mobile. 
  • Informing media buys: Dovendors use their analysis to help companies make more informed digitalmedia buys, search term bidding and marketing communication planning? 
  • Interactive attribution revenues and client base: Smallerfirms like Encore Media Metrics and UpStream were ineligible for thisWave because they had fewer than 10 large marketer clients and nascentattribution provider revenue. 
  • Comprehensive, self-service interface: Thisis where companies like iCrossing, Theorum and Shomei didn't make thecut. Forrester looked specifically for vendors with a hands-on interfaceto look at and alter attribution models. 
  • Prevalence in Forrester client discussions: Thisis a big reason why companies like Google, IBM and Adobe were includedin this report. Companies repeatedly asked about them, the report said,because they are known for their enormous user bases.

Interactive Attribution Q2 2012

Not only are vendors using more precise marketing measuring tools, customers are increasingly seeing more synergy between finance and marketing teams at the C-suite level. That means enterprise companies are putting more value than ever on choosing the right attribution vendor.

Additionally, the vendors they have to choose from are more clearly defined and established. In other words, the vendors here are using more standardized approaches and are competing more directly with each other compared to when Forrester last looked at the sector in 2009.

The Leaders

Visual IQ and ClearSaleing are the only two companies Forrester rated as Leaders in 2009 that continue to lead in 2012. Visual IQ in particular stood out to the research team for its reporting and planning tools, but noted its sophisticated approach may be a bit intimidating for non-blue chip, big digital-budget firms.

Other so-called Pure Play performers were Adometry, Convertro and C3 Metrics, and all three were rated as either Leaders or Strong Performers. What they all had in common were their easy-to-use interfaces, and with the exception of C3 Metrics, an algorithmic methodology.

Analytics Providers Not Far Behind

Names like IBM, Adobe and Google populate this space because of their huge stores of data and the ability to parse it. They lack a comprehensive approach at this point, the report said, and their interactive attribution tools are offered as a feature inside their Web analytics offerings. Pretty simple, right? Note Forrester's measured response to this, is to use the Wave tool to adjust the results to your companies' needs. These are recommendations, after all, and the Wave is meant to help find the best fit depending on what features are needed.