Marketing Attribution

Marketing Attribution

Successful marketing relies on a brand’s ability to connect with consumers and learn how they think and make purchasing decisions. Though marketing strategies vary wildly between industries and even between brands, one thing remains the same: customer experience is at the core of good business. Therefore, continuously improving customer experience should be a priority for every brand.

What is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing attribution is the process of identifying and evaluating the interactions, or touchpoints that lead to a desired outcome, such as a sale or conversion. It allows marketers to understand the impact of each marketing channel or effort in influencing customer behavior. 

Effective marketing attribution provides valuable insights into customer journeys, helps in identifying the most successful touchpoints, and enables data-driven decision-making. It plays a crucial role in enhancing the efficiency of marketing campaigns by attributing credit to the right touchpoints that contribute to the final conversion. Through this process, brands learn what aspects of their marketing approach are most effective. Marketers are then able to refine their strategies by reallocating resources to the most rewarding marketing channels and campaigns.

In this article, we’ll explore marketing attribution models , how they work, and how marketers can use them to analyze and improve their creative and messaging strategies across marketing channels.

What is Marketing Attribution Modeling?

To get an accurate picture of how marketing strategy impacts potential customers, it’s essential to decide how to assign credit between various marketing channels. A marketing attribution model is the set of criteria or rules that determines which channel gets credit for a sale and which touchpoint has the most impact on the consumer.

Marketers have developed a range of attribution models, each with its own way of assigning credit to touchpoints along the conversion funnel. In general, there are two kinds of attribution models - single-touch and multi-touch attribution models.

Single-touch attribution models focus on a single touchpoint in the customer journey, while multi-touch attribution models attempt to create a more detailed, nuanced picture by spreading credit across multiple touchpoints based on a set of criteria.

Types of marketing attribution models

Several marketing attribution models can be adapted to collect data for a wide range of businesses. Each model has advantages and disadvantages, depending on the nature of the enterprise.

First-touch Attribution

This attribution model assigns credit to the touchpoint that first connects the consumer with the brand—the moment when a marketing activity generates a fresh lead. The action doesn't need to result in a purchase to be counted. Instead, a credit is assigned upon conversion, when the user completes an action on the website. This model integrates well with Google Analytics. However, it can also overstate the importance of certain channels by only accounting for the first click.

Last-touch Attribution

This model assigns credit to the last touchpoint that the consumer interacts with—the step that leads directly to the conversion. This approach helps brands learn which channels promote the final purchasing decision. It’s often the first model that marketers use when evaluating their strategies, but the approach can be too simplistic, overlooking previous channels and messaging that impacted the customer along the way.

Multi-touch Attribution

For marketers that have robust data on their audiences and how they interact with marketing channels, multi-touch attribution is often the most effective marketing attribution model. It assigns credit across all channels with which your customer interacted on their way to making a purchase. Here are several popular approaches that determine how to weigh the final attribution:

  • Linear attribution: Distributes credit evenly across each touchpoint in the funnel.

  • Weighted attribution: The most common form of weighted attribution is the U-shaped variety, which assigns 40% of conversion credit to the first and last touchpoints, with the remainder divided among the touchpoints in between.

  • Time-decay attribution: Gives more credit to touchpoints later in the conversion process. The last touchpoint before a conversion receives the most credit, and the share of points decreases steadily as you move toward the beginning of the funnel.

Data-driven Attribution

Data-driven attribution takes another step forward from the rule-based multi-touch attribution models. Rather than using a predefined model to assign credits to each touch-point, data-driven attribution uses machine learning technology to create a custom model for each business by using data that reflects the actual customer journeys. It helps marketers to better understand how customers interact with the brands across various channels and marketing programs, and how each touchpoint attributes to conversions.

How do you measure marketing attribution?

The best approach to measuring the effectiveness of ad campaigns and marketing tactics depends on the type of business. Other variables, such as length of conversion cycle, also play a role in the decision. Before implementing a marketing attribution tool, brands should create a map of the customer journey and decide which metrics will be most useful for gauging ROI.

Some entities, like B2B brands, may find that newsletter subscriptions, file downloads, and event attendance are more useful as conversion metrics than pure sales conversions, which may occur infrequently. Purchases are a common metric for measuring marketing attribution for B2C brands that process large numbers of conversions every day. The best marketing attribution model will focus on a brand’s goals and will clarify how to invest marketing dollars more productively.

What is a marketing attribution tool?

Most businesses and brands deal with large amounts of customer data related to various touchpoints in the sales cycle. A marketing attribution tool will help keep track of that data and accurately assign credit where it's due. It’s critical to choose an attribution tool that fits your business goals and processes.

The ideal attribution software would offer multiple attribution models for marketers. As each attribution model has its pros and cons, marketers can make use of multiple models to gain deeper insights into the customer journey and effectiveness of different touchpoints.  

Google Analytics offers basic attribution tracking, but other tools can perform more advanced analyses and provide custom attribution models. Some attribution platforms, such as AdRoll's cross-channel attribution tool, can integrate with CRM systems, eCommerce platforms,  email marketing tools and social media channels to provide greater detail for marketers to optimize their campaign performance and return on ad spend.