Marketing Attribution: Understand The Path to Conversion

marketing attribution

Marketers nowadays have many options to market their products. There are more than 50 channels that can be used to connect customers with companies, and the number is still growing as technology advances. That’s definitely a good thing because with more tools in hand, marketers can approach their customers in different ways and be more effective in their marketing efforts.

But here’s the problem: how do you know which marketing tactics you’re using are contributing to sales or conversions?

If you can’t answer that, you are going to have a hard time trying to optimize your marketing campaign and get more revenue. In addition to that, you may waste money on ineffective marketing channels without even realizing it. That’s why you need to know about marketing attribution.

Marketing Attribution: What Is It?

According to Wikipedia, “marketing attribution is the identification of a set of user actions (“events” or “touchpoints”) that contribute in some manner to the desired outcome, and then the assignment of a value to each of these events.

To put it simply, marketing attribution helps marketers answer the question: ”How do I know if these marketing tactics are working or not?”

In an ideal world where customers just go straight to your store and purchase your products, life would be easier and you wouldn’t need marketing attribution. But we all know that it’s not how reality works. 92% of customers are NOT going to buy the first time they visit a retailer’s website. To get the final sale, there were many tactics that have to be applied: from the blog post that they read, the ad they saw on Facebook to the email they received once subscribe to your newsletter. That’s why marketing attribution is so important to marketers.

Benefits of Marketing Attribution

Understand The Entire Purchasing Process

One of the biggest benefits marketers get when using attribution properly is that they will have a clear view of the entire purchasing process, from leads to customers. Every touchpoint and interaction along the way is taken into account. The customer’s experience from initial contact down to the sales funnel. It is a journey that if understand well will bring tremendous advantages to marketers.

For example, with a clear customer journey map, you can see any gaps that exist in customer service. Your customers may feel frustrated with one channel along the way, and since you now see it so clearly, you can fix it. Improve customer experience, and you will not only reduce cost, increase sales but you’ll also have happy employees. Why? Because as customers’ problems are solved by your company, employees’ confidence will naturally increase and therefore enhance their satisfaction with their jobs.

Accurate Attribution of Revenue

With so many touch points on the buying process of customers, it can be really difficult for marketers to know which channel contribute how much to the total revenue earned by the company. Obviously, it’s only difficult without marketing attribution. 

marketing attribution

If done right, marketing attribution will show which channel makes the most contribution to revenue. This is definitely something that every marketer wants to know. For instance, you’re running a marketing campaign that includes Facebook ads and email marketing. Now if you know that the advertisement from Facebook brings the most sales, it would be totally logical to double down your marketing budget on the ads instead of your newsletter. But you’ll never know that without accurate marketing attribution.

Reduce Marketing Cost

This comes naturally when you did marketing attribution right. If you know that one of your marketing channels is not very effective, it’s totally rational to cut down the budget on that channel or even try something totally different. That way, you can not only reduce the money you spend on marketing but get more in return since you only invest in channels that brought results.

Using marketing attribution, you can confidently make decisions regarding your campaign. If you don’t have any data at hand, at best what you can do is to pick and choose what you think will work best base on your intuition. But once you understand the customer journey and see clearly which channel makes the most revenue contribution, there’s no need for guessing anymore. Your decision is going to base on facts, and it will work with less cost.

Common Types of Marketing Attribution Models

To do marketing attribution, you need a framework, or a model to analyze which touchpoints or channels deserve credit for a conversion. There are two main types of attribution models: single touch and multi-touch. Within each type, there are smaller models to provide different insights.

Single-Touch Attribution

First Touch Attribution

The First Touch attribution model gives full credit to the marketing tactics that led the customer to visit your store for the first time. Naturally, it overemphasizes those marketing channels on top of the funnel since they are the ones in charge of increasing awareness for your brand.

marketing attribution

The logic behinds this model is anything but complicated: your customer cannot buy from you if they didn’t know your business exists in the first place. 

Obviously, this is a very simple model and easy to implement. But since it only shows you part of the story, it is not a model that is widely used. It tends to overvalue the influence of marketing channels on top of the funnel. However, if you’re a marketer whose job is to solely focus on increasing brand awareness, the First Touch attribution model is for you.

Last Touch Attribution

Like the First Touch attribution model, the Last Touch attribution model is very easy to use and measure. While the simplicity is the same, this model gives 100% credit to the final part of the conversion path instead of the top of the funnel channels. In other words, the main focus of this model is the final trigger that leads to sales.

This model has almost the same pros and cons that the First Touch attribution model has. Easy to set up, simple to use, yet it ignores all the upcoming steps that customers have to take before making the buying decision. All the content, SEO efforts, nurture email marketing could get almost no credits, even though they obviously play a role in the customer purchasing process.

Therefore, this model is best for those marketers who are running conversion-focused campaigns.

Multi-Touch Attribution

Linear

The Linear attribution model gives credit equally to every touchpoint on the customer journey. Obviously, this is a step up from two previous models since it acknowledges all the marketing channels that contribute to the campaign. This gives marketers a better idea of what happens between the first and the last touchpoint.

The advantage of marketers who use the Linear attribution model is a more complete view of the entire buying process. It’s also pretty easy to use as well since all touchpoints are given the same amount of credit, there’s no calculation needed.

The downsides are also quite obvious: in the real world, not all touchpoints have the same contribution to revenue. This model is therefore quite idealistic in its nature. So if you’ve decided to use the Linear attribution model, be aware of this.

U-Shaped

This is where things get interesting. The U-Shaped attribution model gives 40% of the credit to the first touch, the other 40% to the last touch then divides 20% credit left equally to every touchpoint in the middle. This model, while still acknowledge all the touchpoints in between, focus mainly on how customers found you and what made them buy.

This model is the favorite of marketers who believe that the first and the last touchpoints are the most important. While it definitely gives marketers a better view compare to the First Touch and Last Touch attribution model, it still has its flaws. It fails to give enough credit to the middle touchpoints on the customer journey.

If your campaign is designed to nurture leads over a long period of time, the U-Shaped attribution model is definitely not for you. 

Time Decay

The Time Decay attribution model has a unique way of dividing credits along all the touchpoints. The closer a touchpoint is to the buying decision, the more credit it gets. The logic behinds it is that the recent interactions are worth more because they bring prospects closer to conversion.

This model will enable marketers to see clearly which touchpoints are the most effective and lead directly to conversion. Typically, it’s the latter touchpoints down the funnel. However, as we have discussed above, top-of-the-funnel channels can be really important as well. So if your business has a long sales cycle, the Time Decay attribution model might be the one for you, but don’t forget that it will undervalue the early part of the customer journey.

W-Shaped

The W-Shaped attribution model is a little bit more advanced than all the other ones. It assigns the most credit to the first touch, the last touch and the middle touch along the way where a prospect converts to a lead (hence the W shape). The big three touchpoints receive 30% credit each and 10% rest is divided across others.

marketing attribution

This model gives weight to the key action points on the purchasing process (visit, lead, sale) while still acknowledge all the middle touchpoints. It goes a step further than the U-Shaped attribution model and gives marketers a better insight, especially with campaigns that have important lead conversion in the middle of the customer journey. The shortcoming of this model is that it is quite difficult to set up compared to all the other models.

Conclusion

So there you have it. That’s marketing attribution, a way for marketers to measure the effectiveness of marketing channels. It is a concept that is becoming more and more important since there are more touchpoints to consider as marketing campaigns become more complex.

While it’s still unclear what is the best marketing attribution model, applying what works for your marketing strategy and adapt to the situation is the best bet to a higher conversion rate.

Further reading

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