Klaviyo Misattributing Revenue?
Here’s an interdasting story from a client…
In September one of my retainer clients decided to move their primary ecommerce email list from being managed internally to being managed by an outside agency.
Up to that point, the list had been on Maropost and revenue tracking had been handled by Google UTMs.
The agency, on the other hand, uses Klaviyo exclusively. As my client has migrated the list to the agency, all the subscribers have been migrated from Maropost to Klaviyo.
One of the promises the agency makes is that they’ll increase your revenue. More to the point, they claim to “help eCommerce brands squeeze an extra $30,000-$225,000+ in untapped revenue in 45 days or less, without paid ads.”
It behooves the agency to make good on this promise because they charge a percentage of revenue as compensation for their work.
Likewise, the Klaviyo account rep is also financially incentivized. He, too, gets a piece of all the revenue tracked by Klaviyo in the client’s account.
And since Klaviyo integrates with Shopify, all the revenue numbers are tracked in real-time and displayed on the dashboard for the client, the agency, and the account rep to see anytime they want.
Up until this transition to the agency, Jennifer* (who is employed by my client) and I had been writing most of the email copy that had been going out, and the emails were primarily text, although my client had begun incorporating more graphic elements. So I would consider our approach to be a hybrid between ecommerce and direct response.
The agency, on the other hand, is purely ecom: heavily designed graphic emails that always lead with a sale on a specific product.
Jennifer and I both wanted to know, would the agency’s creatives perform better?
Here’s what happened…
The agency immediately began mailing super small segments of the list. We’re talking like 3,000 people instead of 50,000 – a huge reduction.
And what happened to revenue? It went up. A LOT.
During my weekly call with Jennifer, she and I wondered aloud how unusual the results seemed based on all our prior experience selling with email. How could you mail a segment that small with the same offers we’d run to the list before and get such outstanding results??
I could not explain it. Neither could Jennifer. “Maybe we just suck at email marketing,” she said.
I formed a hypothesis…
I suggested that perhaps the new Klaviyo account was getting really good deliverability because it was on a fresh set of warmed-up IPs. More emails getting into Gmail’s Primary tab usually means more sales. Could it be that this new set of IPs would slowly get worse deliverability and thus bring the revenue back down?
It was worth monitoring, I thought.
Well, guess what…
My hypothesis was WRONG.
Or, at the very least, it wasn’t the source of the large increase in revenue attributed to the new agency.
Last week, Jennifer informed me that they’d begun digging into the tracking and discovered a massive case of revenue misattribution.
Basically, the new agency was getting credit for ALL MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTION REVENUE, even for those subscriptions that had been in place prior to the agency taking over.
That’s why it appeared as if they were driving tens of thousands of dollars in sales with each broadcast. The bulk of those sales were simply rebills being wrongly attributed to the agency.
Another Klaviyo customer who experienced the same problem wrote about it on Klaviyo’s community eight months ago…
“We offer a subscription service and use Recharge as our subscription platform. This presents a problem when it comes to revenue attribution in Klaviyo. Whenever a subscription order is created in Recharge/Shopify, if that subscriber opened or clicked an email from us within the attribution window, Klaviyo counts it as revenue attributed to that email. This skews all of our reporting very significantly, and it makes it nearly impossible to see how our campaigns and flows are actually performing from a revenue standpoint.
“Klaviyo tells me that excluding Recharge customers from Klaviyo’s analytics is a commonly requested feature, but that there is not currently a way to do this outside of creating custom reports that exclude Recharge customers. Unfortunately this would be more of a workaround than a solution, and would require a lot of manual upkeep.”
And how did Klaviyo respond? Alex Hong wrote:
“Unfortunately, there is no way via the Shopify Integration to separate out recurring revenue (i.e subscriptions) and a one time order. The Klaviyo <> ReCharge integration helps in identifying an active customer on subscription, but unfortunately the revenue is still attributed under the Shopify Placed Order revenue. Since all the revenue is coming in through a single metric, it will be hard to differentiate between these.
“When calculating revenue, Klaviyo cannot decipher between Shopify Placed Order metrics that were placed independently of a ReCharge subscription. They all appear as the same type of Shopify Placed Order metrics within Klaviyo. That said, the ability to filter out recurring subscriptions is a widely requested feature, and I have submitted your valuable feedback to our Product Team for future consideration.”
So is there a solution for this?
Besides custom reports, the only low maintenance fix is to hire a programmer to do some custom coding for you. Otherwise, you’re SOL until the programmers figure out a way to separate one-time purchases and new subscriptions from existing rebills.
But why would they do that? All the current financial incentives reward revenue misattribution.
Getting back to Jennifer and my client, she did some additional testing and discovered their revenue tracking problems go beyond recurring billing…
My client still has another list on Maropost that the agency isn’t managing yet. So Jennifer used that list to conduct a simple test.
She clicked on an agency email first. Then she clicked on a link from the other list that was still being managed internally. If the tracking was working properly, the sale would be tracked to the second source, not the first. (Last one in wins.)
But that’s NOT what happened. The sale was actually tracked in BOTH PLACES, thereby double-counting the revenue.
This is what the military calls a SNAFU.
Not only are the agency’s revenue numbers completely unreliable… but the agency and the Klaviyo account rep have both been grossly overpaid due to the rev share agreement that’s in place.
My client is now demanding that Google UTMs be the sole source of revenue tracking. But rather than use UTMs and try to untangle the mess, Jennifer thinks the agency might just drop them as a client because they’re a “problem client” compared with all the other accounts they manage who’ve never dug too deeply into the revenue tracking. In fact, the agency told Jennifer that NONE of their other clients use UTMs.
So what can you learn from this tale of artificially inflated results?
Lesson 1: If you use Klaviyo, you need to audit your revenue tracking asap.
Lesson 2: Always have a way to cross reference and verify revenue. Jennifer recommends UTMs because they’re reliable and easy to implement.
Lesson 3: Only pay rev share on revenue collected. Otherwise, you’re paying a commission on revenue that’s only been tracked on paper.
This is how my agency Upsender works with clients. We may track a certain amount of revenue in a month. But the amount of revenue collected in that month will always be slightly different due to refunds, chargebacks, and potential delays in vendors paying affiliates.
Lesson 4: If something appears too good to be true (e.g. one agency is significantly outperforming another), then it’s important to know why and how that’s happening. The increase might be legitimate. But there’s also a chance that it’s not.
I’m rootin’ for ya,
Ryan “feeling just a little bit vindicated” Healy
* Jennifer is not her real name