There are a million and one ways to evaluate a marketing campaign and a million and one points throughout the campaign to measure. Marketing attribution is one method of analyzing results that can help you prepare future strategies and optimize ROI.  

What Is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing attribution refers to the process where marketers analyze how strategies and specific customer interactions contribute to sales, website traffic, and overall revenue. These various interactions are known as touchpoints and they represent some sort of action that the potential customer has taken whether that’s clicking on a link, visiting your website, or following an ad.  

Types of Attribution Models

There are many attribution models around, but it doesn’t mean your team needs to tap into every model out there. Instead, you’ll select the attributions you’re most interested in based on your company’s goals and needs.  

First Interaction Attribution

This touchpoint is just like it sounds and refers to the first time the customer comes in contact with your brand whether that’s through your website, social media, blog, etc. It makes the assumption that the conversion occurred after their first encounter with your company regardless of any additional messaging that may have appeared afterwards. Think of it like seeing an ad and following through with whatever action was desired whether that was a making a purchase or filling out a form.  

Last Interaction Attribution

On the opposite end, a last interaction attribution disregards any prior touchpoints before the final touch and gives full credit for the conversion to the last interaction. It’s a good attribution point to consider if you’re really focused on making conversions. But because it doesn’t account for any of the prior engagements, you’re not getting the full picture.  

Last Non-Direct Click Attribution

This one-touch attribution model looks specifically at the last channel the customer interacted with before converting. All of the credit for the sale is given to whatever action took place last. It also ignores any sort of direct traffic. 

Linear Attribution

Linear attribution is a multi-touch model that considers all aspects of a customer’s journey. All interactions and engagements are considered a touchpoint such as an ad on social media, a website click, or a comment. Each of these touchpoints are given equal weight up until the point of conversion. This model is ideal for getting an overall look into a customer’s relationship with your brand. 

The downside to this is that not all interactions actually hold the same weight — subscribing to a newsletter is a much larger indication of interest than clicking on a link to your site.  

Time Decay Attribution

This attribution model also takes into consideration multiple touchpoints. However, the difference is that it assigns more weight to any interactions or engagements that occur closer to when the customer converts. Time decay is useful to observe for those that are trying to find insight on which channels are driving conversions and potentially having the most impact on sales.  

Position Based Attribution

Also known as a U-shaped attribution, this model distributes the weight of each touchpoint differently depending on when it occurs in the sales journey. To break it down further, 40 percent weight is given to the first touchpoint and the last touchpoint before converting. Any interactions in between are given a 20 percent weight. This model is useful for gaining insight on specific touchpoints as well as seeing the big picture.  

Where Does Email Fit In?

With email being a common channel for marketing efforts, you can also apply marketing attribution models to email marketing. You can choose to utilize any of the previously mentioned attribution models depending on what you’re trying to learn about your marketing efforts. Here’s what this looks like in each scenario:  

  • First Interaction: Your customer sees an ad on social media to subscribe to your newsletter. Over the next several weeks, they open your emails and follow your links to your online storefront, adding items to their cart. It isn’t until they receive an abandoned cart email that they convert. Although there were multiple engagements after the initial one, the social media ad gets the credit based on first interaction attribution.  
  • Last Interaction: Your customer receives an email and clicks on a link to visit your website. They don’t end up converting and get a retargeting ad the next day but still don’t take action. Finally, they see a social media post you’ve shared, and it finalizes their decision to make a purchase. In this scenario, your social post would receive credit for the conversion according to last interaction attribution.  
  • Last Non-Direct Click: Your customer finds your brand through an ad campaign and adds items to their cart before getting busy and leaving. They then receive an abandoned cart email that reminds them of their items. They click on the email and debate items in their cart and leave without making a decision. The next day, they go to your site directly, remembering their items and finally deciding on their purchase. The entirety of the credit goes to the email and not the direct visit based on last non-direct click attribution.  
  • Linear: Your customer visits your website multiple times, signs up for your email list, and clicks on ads for sales multiple times. They add items to their cart before getting distracted and moving on to a different task. As a result, they receive a couple of abandoned cart emails reminding them to finish their purchase. In this case, your website, emails, and ads would all be given equal credit towards the final conversion.  
  • Time Decay: Your customer comes across your brand after seeing an ad campaign highlighting your newest launch. They browse your site and sign up to receive updates about future products. In the following days, they revisit your website directly to continue browsing. Finally, they receive an email reminding them of a sale that’s about to end and click on the link to make a purchase. According to time decay attribution, the email would be credited the most for the conversion with each action before that holding less and less weight.  
  • Position Based: Your customer comes across an ad with a coupon code for free shipping. They browse your site and add various items to their cart before leaving. The next day they receive an abandoned cart email, prompting them to pull up the site and add more items on sale to their cart. The next day they see an ad letting them know the sale ends at midnight which causes them to finalize their order. The first ad and the last ad would get a majority of the credit for the conversion while the email would receive 20 percent of the credit.  

There are many attribution models to choose from and each has their pros and cons.  

When you’re trying to select the one for you, consider some key factors surrounding the sales cycle. Take into account the type of cycle you’re using, the length it runs for, the software that’s being used, and whether most of it is done through online or offline channels such as print, TV, or radio. Ultimately, you’ll most likely end up using several attribution models and analyzing results together to gain a full understanding. 

What Can You Learn from Attribution Reports?

Taking a look at your attribution reports can clue you in on the true impact that email has on your revenue and how other channels may be contributing to your marketing efforts. Eventually, you’ll catch on to any patterns and correlate specific actions with your campaign. For example, days that you send an email will also be days where other channels have higher revenue as well.  

Attribution reports aren’t just beneficial to for your own marketing purposes, they are a useful tool in advocating for your team and your strategies. Over time, these reports can demonstrate the impacts that email marketing has on the overall sales funnel, giving you the evidence you need to show higher ups where their budget is going and why email deserves continued support. 

Implementing attribution models into your strategy can be a complex and robust process especially because the customer journey isn’t always straightforward. What’s important to remember is that while customers may be taking all sorts of paths to get to that final conversion, marketing attribution can help you make sense of it in an efficient way.   

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