What Is Marketing Attribution and How to Use It for Your Business
The world of marketing is beautifully complex - it’s flooded with choices about which channels to use and which customers to target. This wide range of options is responsible for much of the effectiveness of modern-day marketing. However, it’s also part of the challenge. Indeed, it’s easy to get lost in a tangle of different platforms and campaigns, making it hard to track our efforts and find out what really works.
Marketing attribution is the answer to this problem. It involves untangling this complexity using mathematical models and concrete data. While this may sound daunting, it’s actually quite simple. In fact, many platforms - from dedicated attribution software to your very own website builder - automate the process for you. By providing you with the information about which marketing campaigns drive conversions, these tools give you valuable insights that you can translate into a business strategy.
Here’s everything you need to know about marketing attribution for your business, including its benefits, the different types of attribution models and how to get started.
What is marketing attribution?
Marketing attribution is the method of identifying which marketing touchpoints lead a user to convert. By choosing from a variety of attribution models, you can evaluate which pathways - whether it’s a Facebook promotion, banner ad or email marketing campaign - successfully persuade customers to convert to leads or make a purchase.
You can gain a better understanding of marketing attribution by becoming familiar with a few key terms:
Touchpoint: Any interaction between your company and a potential customer. For example, this could be opening a marketing email or clicking on a Facebook ad.
Conversion: Any action taken by a user that leads them through your marketing funnel. This ranges from capturing a lead - for example, by getting someone to sign up for a newsletter or free trial - to closing a sale.
Credit: The value assigned to a particular touchpoint based on its role in generating the conversion. In some attribution models, all touchpoints that a customer encounters are assigned equal credit. In other models, touchpoints that are thought to play a greater role are given more credit.
Together, these three elements form the basis of attribution marketing.
Benefits of marketing attribution
There are a few key reasons marketing attribution is critical for your business. Here’s how it can help bolster your marketing strategies:
Strengthening your creatives: When you learn which campaigns can be attributed to user conversions, you’ll also understand which creatives work better than others. This way, you can adapt your creatives accordingly - whether it’s altering the messaging, adjusting the colors or changing your CTA.
Optimizing your marketing spend: Relatedly, marketing attribution provides insights into which campaigns to spend your money on. Based on that data, you can allot more of your budget to the strategies that generate the most leads or sales.
Improving the targeting strategy: Attribution models don’t just tell you which campaigns are high converting; they also give you insights into which users are affected by those campaigns. This information is invaluable when it comes to segmenting your market and creating highly targeted content that resonates with your audience.
Adapting to consumer needs: Tracking top sources of traffic helps you adjust your offering to cater to the needs of prospective customers. For example, if there’s an ad campaign for a new product feature that drives a lot of website traffic, this may be a sign to build upon that feature in your product.
Increasing your ROI: By allowing you to optimize your creatives, appropriately allocate your marketing spend and strategically target your audience, marketing attribution ultimately leads to increased marketing ROI.
What is a marketing attribution model?
A marketing attribution model measures and provides attribution data. Different types of models use different metrics to supply data about which touchpoints are most responsible for generating leads. These include:
Lead conversion touch attribution
Full path attribution
Custom or algorithmic attribution
Types of marketing attribution models
An effective attribution model accurately pinpoints which messages a consumer encountered on what channel, and what touchpoint had the greatest influence over their decision to convert. That said, these models aren’t one-size-fits-all. Companies vary in their preferences for which models best suit their organization, since it depends on their industry, target market and business goals.
Let’s dive into the differences between the various types:
01. First-touch attribution
First-touch attribution is known as a single source attribution model. As its name implies, a single source attribution allocates all credit for a customer’s visit to just one source. The assumption here is that a user’s decision to convert can be traced back to a single touchpoint - say, one particular email or ad.
In a first-touch attribution model, all credit gets assigned to the very first touchpoint. In other words, if a user gets a Facebook ad, then a YouTube ad, and then a marketing email - and afterwards decides to sign up for a free trial - their conversion will be entirely attributed to that initial Facebook ad.
02. Last-touch attribution
Last-touch attribution is also a single source model. Like the previous model, it gives all credit for conversion to just one touchpoint - regardless of how many other touchpoints a user might encounter.
Unlike first-touch attribution, though, this model assumes that the final touchpoint is entirely responsible for generating the conversion. In the example of the user who saw three consecutive campaigns - a Facebook ad, followed by a YouTube ad and then a marketing email - the latter would receive all the credit. Both the Facebook and YouTube ads that the user encountered would not be considered factors in persuading them to sign up.
03. Lead conversion touch attribution
Another type of single source attribution model, lead conversion touch attribution gives all the credit to whichever campaign generated the lead.
Let’s say our particular user made the decision to sign up by clicking on the marketing email, arriving at the website and then entering their contact details. By this model, the reason for their conversion would be 100% attributed to the marketing email, since that’s what brought them to the page on which they entered their details. Other marketing efforts - in this case, the Facebook and YouTube ads - would not be taken into consideration.
This is one of the most popular types of attribution models - and intuitively, it makes sense. However, like other types of single source models, it doesn’t factor in the other elements of the sales cycle that may have brought the user to the point of conversion.
04. Linear attribution
There are various types of attribution models that are more complex, taking into account multiple touchpoints. These are called multi-touch attribution models, or MTAs, and they factor in all touchpoints preceding a user’s decision to convert.
Linear attribution, while more complex than a single source model, is the simplest type of MTA. This is because it gives equal credit to all the touchpoints. By this model, that Facebook ad, YouTube ad and email marketing campaign are presumed to be equally responsible for persuading that particular user to sign up.
05. Time-decay attribution
Another type of MTA model, time-decay attribution gives the majority of the credit to the touchpoints that a user was most recently exposed to. The idea here is that touchpoints that occurred closer to a user’s conversion may have been more impactful in their decision than touchpoints that happened prior.
In our example, the email marketing campaign would receive the most credit. The YouTube ad - let’s say it was viewed a week before the email marketing campaign - would receive a moderate amount of credit. Meanwhile, the Facebook ad, if viewed a month before that, would receive a very small amount of credit.
For lengthy sales cycles, such as those of many B2B companies, the touchpoints will be more spread out. For a large and substantial sale, for instance, the sales cycle could fall around 6 to 9 months. In this case, all touchpoints within these 6 to 9 months would be taken into account - with the most recent ones being presumed more responsible for driving the conversion.
06. U-shaped attribution
At this point, you may have noticed that the difference between MTA models lies in which touchpoints they choose to prioritize over others. Linear attribution models give equal credit to all touchpoints. Time-decay MTAs give credit to campaigns based on how recently consumers interacted with them. The U-shaped model, also known as a position-based model, gives credit to two key touchpoints - the first and the last. It gives a smaller amount of credit to any touchpoints in between.
Specifically, the first touch and the final touch (aptly called the lead creation touch) each receive 40% of the credit for the user’s conversion - making up a total of 80%. The remaining 20% is distributed among the middle touchpoints, giving a small percentage of the credit to each one.
07. W-shaped attribution
Similar in principle to a U-shaped model, a W-shaped model is another type of position-based MTA. Like a U-shaped model, this model gives a large share of the credit to the first and last touches. The difference is that it also gives a large share of the credit to a third touch in the middle, known as opportunity creation.
In this case, all three touchpoints - the first touch, the opportunity creation touch, and the lead creation touch - each receive 30% of the credit. Together, they’re responsible for 90% of the user’s decision to convert. The final 10% is divided between any remaining middle touchpoints.
08. Full path attribution
This type of MTA has much in common with U-shaped and W-shaped attribution, but it distributes the bulk of the credit between four - rather than two or three - touchpoints. The additional touchpoint is the interaction that triggered the purchase.
In this way, the full path model doesn’t just map out the factors generating leads; it also details the factors leading to the purchase. In other words, it takes into account the customer’s complete journey through the marketing funnel.
09. Custom or algorithmic attribution
If you find that none of the models perfectly capture your strategy, you can always create a custom model. This is a more advanced approach that allows you to assign your own attribution weights to the touchpoints of your choice. To do this, you’ll need to have a deep knowledge of your marketing channels and the behavioral patterns of your buyers as they move through the sales funnel.
If you’re just getting started with marketing attribution, this isn’t an ideal option to launch into, as it can consume a great deal of time and resources. For many companies, attribution tools that make use of the existing models are highly effective in creating a targeted and optimized marketing strategy.
How to choose the right marketing attribution tool for your business
There’s a wide range of platforms that make use of these various marketing attribution models. Like with other marketing tools, there’s no black-and-white answer when it comes to finding the best option for your business. However, there are some important points to consider when making your choice:
Immediate objectives: What is the primary purpose of your campaigns? For example, you might prioritize spreading brand awareness over driving sales. Analyze the goals of your campaign, and think about which types of attribution model helps you best achieve these goals. Remember, you can always change your goals - and attribution model - as your company evolves.
Length of sales cycle: How long is your typical sales cycle? It’s important that your model doesn’t leave out crucial phases of the process - especially if your sales cycle is several months long.
Online versus offline marketing: Are most of your marketing assets online, or are some of them take the form of print ads or in-person events? Be sure to take into account the effects of your offline marketing efforts when analyzing your attribution data.
Lifetime customer value: The most valuable customers don’t just convert once - they’re repeat buyers. Because of this, your attribution model should not only measure first-time conversions; it should also help you track and optimize further conversions by the same customers.
How to get started with marketing attribution
A convenient solution for getting started is Wix’s marketing attribution tool for Facebook ads. This option is available to users of Wix Stores, and it’s fully integrated with your professional website.
To use this tool, go to your Wix dashboard and open a Facebook ad campaign. Once your ad is up and running, check the Facebook Ads dashboard for valuable campaign stats and analytics. This information is broken down into sections so that you can easily see how your ads are performing and whom they’re impacting. Here are some of the marketing attribution insights to pay attention to:
Top Stats: This section displays the most important campaign statistics in one place, including your total reach, site visits and ad revenue .
Purchase Funnel: Take a look at this section for insights into your customer journey, from the moment someone first viewed your ad to their completion of a purchase.
Audiences: See demographic data about the people viewing and clicking on your ads, including their gender, age and location.
Ad Engagement over Time: Check how your ad is performing over a specified period of time, and get data about views, clicks and site visits from your audience.
Together, these key insights will not only enable you to optimize your Facebook ads; they’ll also help you make informed, data driven decisions about your marketing strategy moving forward.
By Rebecca Strehlow
Wix Blog Writer