All marketers need to know what marketing channel is performing the best to connect with their customer and deliver their message at the most relevant time in the customer journey. Ultimately, they want to know the ROI of their integrated marketing initiatives, and attribution plays a big role in their ability to capture and analyze the data to understand this.

So What is Attribution?
Attribution is a guideline of how conversion in a marketing channel is credited across multiple media channels with the understanding that a consumer’s path to conversion, almost always includes multiple marketing touchpoints from the top of the funnel, awareness of a brand, to the lower funnel, where customers transact or take a desired action.

Why is Attribution Important?
Attribution is important for brands and marketers to understand which media channels are influencing and driving conversions across the marketing ecosystem. Attribution modeling provides the guidance required to calculate campaign efficacy and determine KPIs such as cost per action, cost per order, and/or return on ad spend by channel and in totality.

Attribution Models:
There is no consensus as to what the “correct” attribution model is, however, there are five commonly used models that vary in how a conversion is credited based on the path to conversion a consumer takes, plus a customized approach. Each model is designed to provide attribution based on how a brand or marketer feels is the most accurate way to credit the media mix they use to engage and interact with their target customer.

  • First touch – the first touchpoint in a consumer’s journey receives 100% of the conversion credit
  • Last touch – the last touchpoint in a consumer’s journey receives 100% of the conversion credit
  • Linear – each touchpoint in a consumer’s journey receives an equal portion of credit for the conversion
  • Time decay – the touchpoints closest to conversion receive more credit with the early touchpoints being depreciated
  • Position-based – the first and last touchpoints on a consumer’s journey receive additional weight in conversion credit with the mid-points credited at a smaller percentage
  • Custom – a model that is tailored specifically for the organization allowing more control over how they want to allocate each touchpoint in the customer journey, depending on how each interaction influences a consumer to convert

Attribution Models - Attribution

Understanding and Choosing the “Right” Attribution Model for your Organization
Determining the appropriate source of truth for a mixed channel marketing campaign can be challenging for brands and marketers alike.

Choosing the correct attribution model based on campaign strategy, media mix, and KPIs is important to understand the overall effectiveness of the various media channels independently and in concert with each other. By determining which channels are working as intended based on each channel’s role in the path to conversion, brands and marketers can make better informed campaign optimizations and acquire critical learnings for future media activations.

PlusMedia and Attribution
Specific to digital media, PlusMedia evaluates each individual campaign by its native attribution data as this is the way these platforms measure and optimize toward bottom line returns. This further helps illustrate how higher funnel media channels influence lower funnel conversions. While these digital ecosystems are not interoperable, we look to strategically maximize potential within each campaign based on perceived returns and the impact on the primary objective of acquiring high quality converters and revenue generation.

To better understand a consumer’s path to purchase and more accurately reflect the sales funnel, the ideal attribution model of the future would be person-centric and a multitouch, customized approach to help understand the differences among audience groups. Marketers gain the opportunity to create the ideal customer journeys, improving consumer and brand satisfaction. In addition, a multitouch approach to attribution measurement allows marketers to combine data across attribution models into one holistic measurement offering a complete view of the customer’s entire journey on a granular level – from first touch to last click – that can be focused on specific business outcomes. With this comprehensive view into the success of each campaign, marketing teams can better determine which media channels and touchpoints played the biggest role in driving conversions for specific users, enabling more accurate campaign insights and allowing campaign dollars to more effectively be budgeted into top-performing tactics, leading to greater marketing success.

While marketers understand intuitively that a consistent view of customers is crucial, it is still difficult to ultimately get this view as converters may interact with multiple touchpoints before converting.

Path to Purchase Chart - Attribution

One free tool that marketing teams can look to is Google Analytics 4 (GA4) for data-driven insights. As brands adopt GA4, they are looking to their new cross-channel data-driven attribution model for more transparency into their customer journey. This attribution model uses end-to-end machine learning to assign attribution credit that is customized (based on the account’s historical data) to each conversion. Since models are continuously improved, this solution also automatically adapts to the changes in performance of different touchpoint categories.

While PlusMedia does not recommend GA4 become a sole source of digital attribution, brands can use the Conversion Paths and Model Comparison reports to see how the data-driven model allocates credit to each of their channels or campaigns. Other sources that brands can use to better understand their customer journey and how best to attribute credit to media channels for a customized attribution model may be through surveys, market research, a paid attribution platform, and/or trial-and-error.

In closing, marketing will continue to be a blend of art and science as we determine the best sources of data, methods to measure efficiency and strategies to translate results into ad spend. Each attribution model comes with pros and cons that make it better suited to one type of brand over another. Single-touch models are the easiest to understand and implement, but multi-touch models can do a better job of breaking down longer conversion cycles. Often, it takes combining various attribution methods into a customized approach to gain deeper insight into a campaign’s overall success. By focusing on specific aspects of the customer’s journey and overlapping data from other sources, brands can create their own custom model by weighing individual touchpoints in the marketing funnel. This customized approach has the advantage of being more successful in pinpointing areas of strength and weakness in a multi-channel marketing strategy and attributing success to the channels with the most success in driving conversions and performance.

*Image Sources: Equation Digital, The Philanthrophile