Marketing’s Fundamental Attribution Error

Are you using many channels to drive sales, but do you allow one channel to claim all credit to the conversions? You might just be making marketing’s fundamental attribution error.

In social psychology, the fundamental attribution error, also known as the correspondence bias or attribution effect, is the tendency for people to place an undue emphasis on internal characteristics – personality – to explain someone else’s behavior in a given situation rather than considering the situation’s external factors.

In marketing, the fundamental attribution error, also known as the desktop computer bias, is the tendency for online marketeers to place an undue emphasis on the last-click to explain a given sale conversion being recorded, rather than considering the conversion’s external factors, such as banner, social and mobile campaigns.

We know that sales conversion rates on mobile are just half of those on desktop computers, (that’s what you see in your data too, right?). Research by SmartInsights also confirms this picture:

This suggests smartphones are more a browse or research platform rather than a buy platform as most sites in this research are by now mobile optimized sites.

90% of people use multiple screens sequentially to accomplish a task over time, and 90% of marketeers with a desktop computer bias kill their mobile reach by bidding down ruthlesslessly, as they just layer the old-world model of desktop performance on mobile. Do you bid 50% lower for mobile because the mobile conversion rate is 50% lower? Are your ads shining bright  on the bottom of mobile search pages?

You would agree that smartphone experiences should be personalised to show this different form of usage, but how to measure all this? See what you can do with the experience of retailer ModCloth (PDF):

“Instead of driving sales, we’re focused on generating registrations via mobile ads. Once a visitor is registered, we can leverage channels like email to convert her to a paying customer,” says Post.

A lot of other interactions are also happening on ModCloth’s mobile-friendly site: adding items to the shopping cart, social sharing, browsing numerous pages… All of these are valuable Mobile Conversions that ModCloth is tracking to better understand the real effectiveness of mobile.” 

Are you making marketing’s fundamental attribution error? What do you do and measure with mobile? Leave a note in the comments!

September 13th, 2015 by