Attribution is an important marketing concept which refers to the process of assigning credit to a particular source for a particular customer action or result. It enables marketers to identify which marketing activities are the most effective and cost-efficient in helping to achieve the desired sales outcomes.
Without attribution, it is impossible for marketers to accurately analyse the ROI (Return on Investment) of their efforts and to optimise their strategies accordingly. Attribution helps marketers make well-informed decisions on how they invest their budget, enabling them to efficiently increase customer value while minimising ad spend.
What is attribution?
Attribution is a multi-faceted concept which involves the allocation of credit to a particular source or activity for a particular result. It is used by marketers to accurately identify which marketing activities led to customer actions, enabling them to understand the customer journey and how their actions contribute to sales outcome.
Generally, attribution requires assigning a certain level of credit or “value” to each marketing ‘touchpoint’ (e.g. an advertisement, a website, an email or telephone call). This numerical value can then be used to inform future marketing decisions, helping to identify which channels are the most effective and cost efficient in driving customer action and maximising ROI.
It is important to note that attribution does not always have to be numerical and can be qualitative, for example assigning a certain “level of influence” to each marketing activity which can then be further analysed.
Attribution models are the various approaches used to allocate credit to a particular activity. Most models are built upon an ‘attribution algorithm’, which determines how credit is distributed amongst a series of activities (especially relevant in multi-mediated campaigns).
Generally, most marketers use a combination of several models to measure and assess the impact of their activities and ultimately, the effectiveness of their campaigns. Commonly used models include:
• Last Click Attribution - assigns all credit to the last user interaction prior to a sale
• First Click Attribution - assigns all credit to the first user interaction prior to a sale
• Linear Attribution - credits each interaction ‘touchpoint’ equally
• Time Decay Attribution - provides more credit to interactions closest to the sale
• Position-Based Attribution - provides more credit to interactions at the start and end of the buyer’s journey
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• Customised Attribution - customised for the use of the user/marketer
When analysing their campaigns, marketers are able to use several models in tandem. For example, Last Click Attribution may be used to measure the effectiveness of a particular channel or campaign and First Click Attribution used to identify webpages that are particularly effective in driving the desired outcome.
Guidelines and best practices
Attribution can be a powerful tool however it is important to bear in mind the following guidelines and best practices:
• Choose the right data: Ensure you have access to good quality data in order to accurately capture everything you need in order to accurately perform attribution.
• Know your objectives: Prior to implementing any attribution model, ensure you know what you want to monitor and measure.
• Choose appropriate models: Every channel and every campaign is different, so ensure the model you choose is appropriate to the context and accurately reflective of the user’s journey.
• Test & optimise: Test various models and tailor them to the outcomes you need in order to accurately measure campaign success.
• Evaluate on an ongoing basis: It is important to regularly evaluate and re-evaluate your models as user behaviour changes over time and needs to be monitored accordingly.
• Be wary of data over-optimism: Attribution can provide very helpful insights however be wary of over-simplifying data and relying too heavily on instinctive assumptions.
Attribution is an important marketing concept which enables marketers to accurately identify which activities are most effective and cost-efficient in helping to achieve sales outcomes. It is vital that good-quality data is available in order to accurately capture the customer’s journey, and that an appropriate model is selected which is tailored to the context. Finally, it is important to evaluate and re-evaluate on an ongoing basis in order to ensure the models remain relevant and reflective of user behaviour.