Marketing Attribution

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Marketing Attribution

What is marketing attribution?

Marketing attribution is a way of understanding the impact of various marketing activities and channels on a customer’s decision-making process. By tracing a customer’s journey through multiple marketing channels, attribution provides marketers with the insights they need to accurately evaluate the effectiveness of each marketing initiative and how they ultimately drove a purchase or conversion. By taking into account each interaction with a potential customer and how each one led to the eventual outcome, attribution can inform marketers how best to adjust their approach in order to maximize success.

Understanding your customer

Most customers do not typically interact with a brand only one time before deciding to make a purchase. Instead, they will typically interact with several brands across multiple channels and platforms as they research their pain point and then, solution.

When a person realizes that they have a problem they want to solve, they often turn to the internet to learn about potential problem solutions. Online, they get to learn about potential products and services they can buy to help them solve their problems. They begin to uncover the different companies who claim to have the capacity to help.

These companies all attempt to build relationships with these prospective customers and all of them are competing for the trust of that customer, and that customer more often than not, wants to know that that company is a thought leader and can solve their problem in the best possible way.

The content you produce lays the foundation for this relationship. It provides you with an opportunity to educate these potential leads and customers and encourage them to continue engaging with your brand. This relationship entices people to pay attention to what you have to say and consider what you have to offer when they prepare to buy.

What can you learn from a marketing attribution?

The problem many brands run into is that they need a way to tell how successful their various strategies are. They need to be able to track which strategies work well, what needs improvement, and how their various changes and updates impact lead generation and conversion. This is where the importance of attribution theory comes into play.

By using attribution strategies, organizations can better determine what touchpoints customers interacted with as they got closer to conversion. You will have a better understanding of what content and platforms impact customers the most before they convert. You can then use this information to better allocate budget and resources to improve your buyer’s journey and your ability to engage with prospects.

What are the different marketing attribution models?

The first-touch attribution model

The first-touch attribution model assumes that the first interaction between the brand and the customer is the most important. In other words, since this touch point engaged the customer enough that they felt encouraged to continue to learn about the organization, it deserves the credit if the lead converts.

This attribution model will definitely help brands better understand what strategies help them get their brand name out in front of customers and how well they succeed in bringing in the new leads. Unfortunately, the data you collect from this strategy will be heavily slanted towards top-of-the-funnel content, not taking into account the value and important role of bottom-of-the-funnel content.

The last-touch attribution model

The last-touch attribution model works on the opposite system of the first-touch attribution model. With last-touch attribution, the last touch point customers have with an organization before converting receives the most credit. The thinking here assumes that the one that convinced the person to actually click the “buy” button should receive the most credit. It does not take into account the importance of the earlier content. This content convinced the person to engage with the brand and then nurtured them until they felt ready to buy.

With these shortcomings of the last-touch attribution model, it makes sense that this model gives too much credit to the end-of-funnel content. This makes it a challenge to accurately measure the importance of the content produced for those earlier in the buyer’s journey. Of course, to successfully convert leads into customers, brands need access to a wealth of engaged leads, which means that high-quality top-of-funnel content is also important for a successful digital strategy.

One popular variation of the last-touch attribution model is the last non-direct click model. This model eliminates the last clicks that come through the customer typing your web address into the search bar. Assuming that if they type your address, you have already successfully nurtured this lead. This helps to eliminate some of the bias toward end-of-funnel content while maintaining simplicity, but still doesn’t adequately measure top-of-funnel influence.

Linear attribution model

The linear attribution model assigns equal value for the conversion to each touch point the customer encountered along the way. It attempts to maintain the simplicity of the one-touch models without neglecting the importance of the top, middle, or bottom part of the buyer’s journey.

While this model does help you gain a more accurate picture of how your prospects interact with your site while leading up to a purchase, it does not do a good job of differentiating between strategies.

Time-decay attribution model

Time-decay attribution assumes that as people get closer to conversion, their touch points carry more weight. Therefore, it assigns an increasing value to each of them as the lead gets closer to purchasing. The top-of-the-funnel content, therefore, will receive the least credit, while the bottom-of-the-funnel action that the customer took right before clicking “buy’”receives the most.

This model attempts to give credit to all of the touch points along the buyer’s journey while also acknowledging that not every one of them has the same impact. It assumes that as customers get closer to conversion, the ones that keep them moving forward have the most impact.

U-Shaped attribution model

U-shaped attribution also tries to better understand how different touch points might differ in their effectiveness to nurture leads. This specific model believes that the first and final ones have the greatest impact on the behavior of a lead. The first one is the one that interested them in the brand and the final one is the one that drove them to finally convert. The touch points in the middle receive an even division of the remaining credit. In other words, this model attempts to combine the benefits of all the previous models. Typically, this model works with 40 percent of the credit going to the first and last touch points and the remaining 20 percent getting divided evenly among the ones in the middle.

Which marketing attribution theory works best?

Each of the models have some benefits and drawbacks. You will need to think carefully about the goals for your marketing strategy as you consider the type of attribution theories you want to use. You also need to think about the ability of your organization to measure the impact of the different touch points.

For example, if your brand is in the early stages of marketing and has not dealt with attribution too much in the past, then it might be preferable to start with the first-touch attribution model as you begin to get the hang of the process. As your marketing matures, you may have the bandwidth to handle a more complex attribution model.

First-touch models may also work well for businesses who have a very short buyer’s journey. Certain e-commerce brands, for example, that typically sell to people on the first or second time they visit a page, may find that a one-touch attribution model works well for them.

Many other businesses will want to gain a more accurate picture that can be obtained through the multi-touch attribution models. These models do a better job of measuring the impact of the different touch points along the way, understanding that not one moment deserves all the credit for converting a lead into a customer. The truth of this position may be strengthened for businesses who have a significantly longer buyer’s journey. For example, someone preparing to buy a car, home or yacht often thinks about the decision for a while before making a purchase. The touch points along this buyer’s journey, therefore, will likely have a greater significance.

These organizations may find that the u-shaped attribution model fits them best, allowing them to accurately see the value of the different touch points along the way while also acknowledging the importance of the first and last moments in the journey.

The data you collect from your attribution model will likely have a significant impact on how you run your digital marketing strategy moving forward. When you know which touch points perform the best, it becomes easier to construct campaigns that will have the maximum impact. 

How do I create a marketing attribution model?

You can set up attribution models both in Google Analytics as well as some social platforms, such as Facebook.

To set up your attribution model in Google, you will need to log into your Google Analytics account and access the Admin portion of the site, there you will see Multi-Channel Funnel Settings. 

Once you have entered this portion of the Analytics page, you can add new attribution models, which allow you to select baseline models based on the strategy you want to use for your page. Google gives you choices between Linear Model, First Interaction, Last Interaction, Time Decay, and Position Based (or U-Shaped) models. You may also select Google’s recommended Data-Driven model.

In the Data-Driven model, Google provides an advanced attribution methodology that uses deep machine learning to automatically determine how much credit to assign to each of a user’s digital marketing touchpoints in the conversion funnel. It analyzes huge amounts of historical user-level data from multiple marketing sources to calculate the likelihood of conversion after every interaction a user has with an advertiser’s products or services. 

Once you select and set up your attribution model, you can start tracking how customers move on your website. You can begin to gather information about the ability of different parts of your site to engage with prospective customers and encourage them to convert.

If you promote ads and content on Facebook and Instagram, you will also see that you can track some attribution data through social media as well. Specifically, Facebook and Instagram will let you know if a customer took a particular action on your ad and site within a certain number of days of viewing your ad. This can help you gain a better understanding of how your ads influence people’s buying decisions. You can combine the data you gather through Facebook to see how your social media ads play in with the rest of your touch points. You can then see how those customers arriving from Facebook ads behave on your site and the types of other touch points they make before a purchase.

The correct marketing attribution model for your business can help you allocate your marketing budget in the most effective way, and provide valuable insight on how different campaigns have performed and what methods are driving sales. With the insights gained, you can make informed decisions about where and how to allocate your marketing budget in the future. Ultimately, the role of a marketing attribution model is to enable you to maximize your profitability.

Related: GA4
Related: Buyer’s Journey