The Past, Present, and Future of
Attribution

Best Practices to Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Every marketer wants to know the exact impact of their work. Attribution is quickly evolving to encompass more marketing activities, producing more effective strategic insights. Here are some best attribution practices in order to give credit where credit is due.

best
practice

1

Start attribution—it’s time. Don’t get left behind.

Advertisers have a much higher opinion of attribution now than just three years ago

2014

35%
of advertisers


believe attribution is critical or very important to marketing success.6

2015

84%
of advertisers



believe attribution is critical or very important to marketing success.6

2016

92%
of advertisers



believe attribution is critical, important, or somewhat important to marketing success.1


85.2% of advertisers track attribution1

  • 26.9% use a multi-touch attribution model and analyze how channels contribute to the overall marketing mix
  • 39.5% track attribution on most campaigns and analyze the results
  • 18.8% 
track attribution, but not sure how to effectively analyze the results
  • 8.5% think attribution and analytics are important, but not sure where to begin
  • 5.9% don't know anything about attribution or analytics
  • 0.4% Other
best
practice

2

Move away from clicks only—start using models that more accurately measure the impact of each channel.

Marketers are measuring more behaviors than ever before in their attribution models

Past



At the advent of pay-per-click advertising, attribution only included the effectiveness of digital ads that were clicked on.

Present



Attribution now includes the effectiveness of all digital ads, weighing the impact of all touchpoints like views and clicks.

Future



Attribution will include the effectiveness of every touchpoint—both online and offline—providing a fuller picture of one’s marketing impact of across the physical and digital worlds.


Advertisers are improving how they use attribution to analyze the big picture

Past



Advertisers used a last-click attribution model to compare the effectiveness of digital channels.

Present



Advertisers are building custom multi-touch attribution models to replace last-click attribution models.

Future



Advertisers will use custom multi-touch attribution models to compare the efficacy of digital and traditional channels.


57% of advertisers "definitely" or "probably" plan to change their attribution model over the coming year1

  • 25.8% Definitely yes
  • 31% Probably yes
  • 35% Might or might not
  • 6.7% Probably not
  • 1.5% Definitely not

Compared to last-click, multi-touch is more accurate because it accounts for the activities of more people

Multi-touch attribution
can shed light on the
81%
of people who use the web.2

vs.

Last-click attribution
can only shed light on the
3.6%
of online users who click on ads.3


That means 96.4% of cookied users don't click on ads—and of those who do—last-click overweights the hyper-clickers who generate 22.7% of total clicks3


Advertisers include as many as 10 digital channels when doing attribution4

Some advertisers also include offline channels in their marketing attribution4

best
practice

3

Try Incrementality.

Incrementality measures the amount of revenue or business impact that would not have occurred without a specific channel or campaign, all other things being equal. It works by comparing the success metrics for an audience exposed to an ad, campaign, or channel to the success metrics for an audience not exposed to the ad, campaign, or channel. When the exposed group outperforms the control group, the difference in performance can be described as an incremental lift.


Incrementality will become the default way to measure ads, campaigns, 
and channels

Past



Advertising activities were deemed successful if they drove the last click.

Present



Advertising activities are deemed successful if they are in the conversion path.

Future



Advertising activities will be deemed successful if they are in the conversion path and show incremental lift toward a 
measurable goal.


AdRoll has built a framework to test the incremental lift for specific campaigns within our platform

AdRoll achieved a 4.2% conversion rate lift when optimizing for incrementality for an international travel housing provider.

When their campaigns were optimized for last click, lift dipped to -8.75%.5

AdRoll achieved a 13.5% lift in conversion rate for an international apparel brand.

When their campaigns were optimized for last click, lift dipped to -14%.5

best
practice

4

Change your marketing based on your attribution insights

Advertisers are changing budget allocation in response to attribution insights

28%
of advertisers have increased spending across some or all digital marketing channels.4

26%
of advertisers have made no change.4

46%
of advertisers have decreased spending across some or all digital marketing channels.4


Attribution models are leading to better, more actionable insights

Past



Attribution data lived in platform-based silos and was analyzed only within these silos. Insights weren't universal across platforms.

Present



Attribution data is getting consolidated and advertisers are manually extracting actionable insights from it.

Future



Advertisers will use algorithmic attribution, where streams of attribution data will fuel actionable insights instantly.


Advertisers rate algorithmic attribution as the most effective attribution method

96%
of advertisers


rate algorithmic attribution as 'very' or 'somewhat' effective.4

Conclusion

Three reasons to adopt attribution best practices

  • Attribution helps you understand how all of your efforts work together to get the customer from a lead to a sale.
  • It's evolving to encompass more marketing activities and to produce more strategic insights.
  • If you fall behind in attribution, you'll likely fall behind in your advertising career.

Some final advice about attribution best practices

  • Attribution can be overwhelming. Take a deep breath. Strive for better, not perfect.
  • When building a model, first define all the metrics you want to track for each marketing objective.
  • Choose your model, but be flexible. Be prepared to show results with multiple types of models. Remember, the goal is better, not perfect.

Make 2017 the year that you get ahead and stay ahead in the field of attribution.

Sources