Explaining all the different attribution models

Attribution can help you measure the success of your campaigns. All you need is the right attribution model that will allow you to unlock your best-performing touchpoints.

We’re all getting at a point that we acknowledge the power of attribution in our marketing measurement. The more channels we’re using in our strategy, the harder it is to analyze the success of our campaigns. Marketing attribution allows us to find the best-performing touchpoints and what we can learn from them for our future steps.

There are many attribution models out there to help you pick the best one for your marketing strategy. Not every one of them will suit your needs and the way you measure success, that’s why you need to choose the best one for your business.

Here’s an overview of the most popular attribution models to make your decision easier.

First touch attribution

In first touch attribution, the full credit goes to the first touch point that led to a conversion. It’s the first channel that started a customer’s journey and it can help you find the best ways to approach your leads. It can be an ideal model if you want to focus on awareness to target new prospects. However, it may not be the right choice for you if you want to explore the channels that assisted the conversion through the nurturing process.

For example, if a new customer found your site by downloading an ebook as a first step, then this is your first touch attribution. However, if the purchase of your product took place after this customer saw your Google Ad a few days after, you’re not able to involve this step in your marketing measurement as you’re only focusing on the first touch point.

It can be a useful model if you want to make the case about the top of funnel stage where content and awareness play an important role.

Last touch attribution

This is the attribution model that’s the exact opposite of the previous one. Last touch attribution gives full credit to the last touch point that led to a conversion. It ignores the previous channels that facilitated the conversion and it can be an easy way to explore the channels that are more ‘actionable’ to finalize a purchase.

This is the attribution model that is the default choice in Google Analytics, which makes it popular for marketers.

If you’re not able to create a complex attribution model yet, then this can be a quick and easy way to find the channels that brought the most conversions for your business. However, it doesn’t tell the complete story of your marketing activity and this can be misleading. You may miss a big piece of the channels that contributed to the conversion and it can lead to confusing decisions around the distribution of your marketing budget.

Linear attribution

A linear attribution model is more balanced as it gives an equal credit to all the touch points that led to a conversion. This is a good way to measure the success of all your channels to give a fair attribution to all of them. As with teamwork, it helps you give credit to all the stages of work as part of the funnel and this also helps your business make everyone feel involved in the success of a campaign.

If you want to focus on improving the relationship with your customers, then this can be a good model for you as you’re keeping an eye on all the stages that can boost the customer experience.

The problem with this model is that if you’re looking for a definite answer on your best-performing channels, then this solution won’t be ideal for you. It creates the challenge of analyzing the performance of each channel to tell which one can be more useful in your next campaigns. This can also create a problem in deciding on the best way to allocate your budget through your channels and which one deserves an additional focus.

Time decay attribution

Time decay attribution increases the significance of each channel depending on its proximity to the final goal. The closer a channel is to the conversion, the bigger the focus on it. If your campaign is time-sensitive then it can be a useful model for you as it will increase the impact of the channels that led to the conversion. For example, if you’re running a weekly promotion, then the emphasis will be higher on the last day of the campaign and your marketing activities. In this case, recent interactions seem to be more important, especially as you get closer to your deadline.

The model is not ideal for you if you want to explore your best performing channels throughout the whole journey. As the focus is on the last touch points, the initial clicks can lose their significance. For example, a webinar promotion may involve a newsletter email 2 weeks before the event. Your audience may not register directly and they may click on your social accounts the day before the webinar. This downgrades the importance of your email marketing to favour your social accounts. Thus, there is a danger of missing some great touch points by focusing on the last conversions.

U-shaped attribution

This attribution model creates a ‘U’ in the most important touch points. It adds around 40% of the credit to the first and last points and it distributes the remaining 20% to the remaining interactions. It is also known as the Position-based model and it can solve the problems you might be facing by applying a single touch model, such as the first or last touch. This model considers both the first and the last interaction and it still involves the middle interactions at a lower scale of importance. It can be useful if you want to know how your customers found about you and then what led them to an actual purchase. The distribution may not be equal, but it still gives you a good idea of your best interactions.

It may not be the right model for you though if your middle-stage interactions are important enough for your campaign so you need to evaluate your objectives before picking the right model.

W-shaped attribution

The W-shaped attribution model can be a good way to see an overview of all your touchpoints while placing emphasis on the most important events. As with the U-shaped model, it starts by focusing on the first and touch interactions, but it also keeps an equal interest in the other key touchpoints.

A good way to understand this model is to keep your focus on the three basic stages of your journey, the first visit, the key channel and the last interaction. This doesn’t mean that it ignores the rest of the channels, which ends up shaping a ‘W’.

It can be a very useful model that involves all touchpoints in the analysis, but it can also be more complicated than others. The set up takes more time, but you may benefit from it if you’re having frequent multi-channel campaigns with a longer-term goal in mind.

Custom attribution model

Another option is to create your own attribution model. This can help you organise your most important touchpoints to be more effective with your marketing measurement.

This is probably a step that you won’t try in your first experience with attribution, but it can be very rewarding once you understand how attribution can make your marketing strategy more successful.

Moreover, you can adjust it depending on your goals and your priorities, but this will also require more time on your side to keep it up-to-date.

Overview

Every attribution model has its own benefits. Some of them are simple yet effective, while others allow you to go in-depth to find all the successful touch points that will make your marketing efforts even better.

You can still try different models until you find the one that works better for your business.

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