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Allister Chiong

Published on

July 30, 2019


attribution model, integrated marketing, marketing engagement

Attribution Models, which part of the purchase journey holds the most influence?


On Monday, John –  a consumer – sees product X on a display banner. A few days later, he decides to Google the product to understand more. On the same day, he also looks up “Product X unboxing reviews” on YouTube. On Thursday John sees a limited offer served to him via a banner ad on his phone and decides to finally buy product X. He goes to his laptop, visits the product website and completes the purchase.


In this marketing riddle, which channel gets the credit?

A consumer’s digital touchpoint is very complex. They will visit a site several times prior to converting which leads to many channels not getting the credit they deserve. In this case, the marketing channel that turned the customer isn’t the channel rightfully reaping the harvest. Digital marketers have to understand how to properly credit digital channels and to understand their roles in a consumer’s path to purchase. Hence, the importance in understanding attribution models.


So… What is an attribution model?


An attribution modeling is a framework for analyzing which digital touchpoints or channels receive credit for a conversion. Different attribution models distribute the success of a conversion to each channel differently. By analyzing various attribution models, you can get a better idea of the ROI for each marketing channel.

There are 6 common attribution models:

  1. First interaction
  2. Last interaction
  3. Last non-direct click
  4. Linear
  5. Time-decay
  6. Position-based



In the First Interaction attribution model, the first touchpoint—in this case, the Paid Display channel—would receive 100% of the credit for the sale.


This model is simple and straightforward. However, this model ignores the effects of any potentially important marketing channels at a later point.


This model is also helpful if your industry has a short buying cycle. If there is a tendency to convert customers immediately, then their first touchpoint is especially important. Or, if your main business goal is bringing in new top-of-the-funnel customers and awareness, “First Interaction” will be a great model for evaluating your conversions.



In the Last Interaction attribution model, the last touchpoint—in this case, the direct purchase channel—would receive 100% of the credit for the purchase.


This model is easy to evaluate, and often the most accurate. As a consumer’s digital touchpoint is complex, users may access your client’s website from multiple devices, clear cookies, or use multiple browsers. This will provide a single user with multiple tracking IDs which makes their entire journey difficult to track. However, this model ignores everything that happens before the final interaction hence making the tracking of “success” much easier.


If there aren’t many touchpoints prior to converting, only tracking the last one will give you a good idea of your strongest channels.



In the Last Non-Direct Click attribution model, all direct traffic is ignored, and 100% of the credit for the purchase goes to the last channel that the customer clicked through from before converting—in this case, the retargeting discount banner ad.


This model eliminates direct clicks which makes this a more insightful model than Last Interaction Attribution. Similarly, it still assigns 100% of the value to one interaction and ignores everything that happens before the last non-direct interaction.



Each touchpoint in the conversion path—in this case the Paid Display, Paid Search, Online Video, Retargeting, and Direct channels—would share equal credit (20% each) for the purchase.


This model gives you a more balanced look at your whole marketing strategy as compared to the first 3 models mentioned above. However, as it assigns equal importance to all stages of the purchase decision, it does not take into account that some marketing strategies are more effective than others. This model will help you clearly outline which channels are contributing but will not tell you what is most successful.



In the Time Decay attribution model, the touchpoints closest in time to the purchase get most of the credit. In this particular scenario, the Direct and Retargeting channels would receive the most credit because the customer interacted with them within a few hours of conversion. The Paid Search and Online Video channels would receive less credit than either the Direct or Retargeting channels. Since the Paid Display interaction occurred a few days earlier, this channel would receive significantly less credit.


The Time Decay attribution model is effective when you’re dealing with a particularly long sales cycle, such as for expensive B2B purchases.



In the Position Based attribution model, 40% credit is assigned to both the first and last interaction, and the remaining 20% credit is distributed evenly to the middle interactions.


Position Based is ideal for businesses that have multiple touchpoints prior to a conversion. It assigns credit to all marketing channels, with stronger weight to two most important interactions: the first time a customer found you and the interaction that prompted a conversion.


Which model is right for me?


There isn’t necessarily a “best” attribution model. You may choose one as your primary attribution model for reporting and analysis. There’s no absolute answer here. Different factors such as – customer journey, number of channels, and length of the sales cycle —will dictate the best attribution model for your campaign.


For B2B marketing teams dealing with longer multi touch sales cycles, Time Decay model will more effectively assign and weight different value across each of the customer touchpoints. Single touch models like first-click and last-click will be better suited for shorter buying cycles with few touchpoints, as well as brand awareness and direct response campaigns.

For more information on how to better track your product’s conversion journey, get in touch with our data analysts today.



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