Everything You Wanted to Know About Marketing Attribution

The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.”  - Tom Fishburne, Chief Marketoonist

While the marketing ecosystem continues to evolve at a dramatic pace, the crux of every business remains unchanged. That is, to improve satisfaction across the customer journey. The art and science of Marketing Attribution exemplifies this objective.

With customer analytics coming from multiple channels across multiple devices, finding the exact impact of each interaction on your objectives is tricky. However, getting marketing attribution right provides a bird’s eye view on how well your marketing stack is operating. This MarTech Series primer on marketing attribution looks at the fundamental parts of various attribution models and sets out the approaches, opportunities and challenges facing digital marketers.

Here you go…

Marketing Attribution: The Core Definition

Marketing Attribution is defined as the process of attributing the source and their outcomes in terms of ROI of conversions across multiple campaigns at different customer touch-points. Before getting started with attribution, marketers need to identify these touch points. Each touch point will have its marketing attribution model. These models determine how the organization endorses leads generated from campaign touch points.

The Marketing Attribution Ladder

MarTech Series Primer: Everything You Wanted to Know About Marketing Attribution

Marketing attribution needs to account for the customer journey from start to end. A single customer may have multiple footprints across campaigns on many devices and platforms. Marketers need to identify each of those interactions to effectively measure ROI in each campaign. To do so, marketers need to familiarize with various elements of the attribution ladder.

Touch Points 

Your brand is a story unfolding across all customer touch points.” – Jonah Sachs, CEO of Free Range Studios

A touch point is your business acting as a direct contact between the customer and the brand that helps build a perception or an opinion about the business. Designed to help customers make a more informed decision about the business, touch points influences the consumer behavior at various levels—pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase. In short, touch points help build a strong brand image in a competitive marketplace by retaining more customers.


Marketing campaigns carry a centralized message delivered through different marketing channels to communicate the idea to customers. Marketing attribution revolves around measuring the success of a campaign by attributing each touch point. Each rung in the marketing attribution ladder is interdependent and hence needs to be benchmarked during credit attribution.

Types of Marketing Attribution Models 

There are many “off the block” attribution models available to the marketers. We are going to stick to the models that are found to deliver maximum ROI-focused results. The 7 marketing attribution models every marketer should be familiar with are:

Online-to-Offline attribution 

What is the extent to which online ads influence offline revenues? 

This is the basic attribution challenge that marketers have to deal with while designing their campaigns. Online impact of the campaign can be measured by utilizing data from smartphones using local GPS, WiFi and beacons. Mobile wallets and in-app Cloud networks are also part of Online-to-Offline attribution models.

Last Click attribution

Web analytics working on the Last-Click Attribution model credits the “last click” for a conversion. Last Click attribution accounts for all the conversions from the campaign. It is preferred for making immediate useful insights on the mode of conversion happening around on-spot sales.

Last Click attribution

The inconsistency of this model arises from the lack of source of traffic generation. In most cases, the “Last click” credits lead to “First Click” re-attribution.

First Click attribution

Exact opposite of what happens with the “last click” attribution, “First Click” accounts for the new leads and conversions from the campaign. It credits the exact touch point that introduced the customer to the product for the first time. It works best for single-campaign channels.

First Click attribution

Last Non-Direct Attribution 

In the Last Non-Direct Click model, the channel that customer clicked last before conversion is attributed. For example Google Analytics uses a model called the Last AdWords Click for PPC attribution that credits the AdWords for the entire sale that occurs prior to the customer interaction across hundreds of channels.

Last Non-Direct Attribution

The days of first and last click are nearing an obvious end. With the advent of more data-driven time-decay models for marketing attribution, marketers have a better reason to build customized campaigns that assist the customer in making a satisfactory decision anywhere in the journey.

Multi-Touch Attribution

Multi-Touch attribution model empowers the marketer to pick the most relevant touch point out of multiple campaigns based on pre-defined analytics and statistical tools. This model provides enhanced visibility on unique customer engagement with various campaigns.

Multi-Touch Attribution

Attribution could be made based on lead source, time of engagement, location and other custom variables set by the marketer.

Multi-Device Attribution

Also referred to as Cross-device attribution, it is a subset of online marketing attribution. It accredits the impact of one or multiple devices for conversions. Marketers can understand the influence of various devices—smartphone, TV, tablets, desktops, laptops and kiosks, on conversions and how each of these devices should be credited to refine the campaign budgets in the future.

Multi-Device Attribution

Google AdWords is a reliable marketing attribution tool to identify the path of conversion and the touch points along the customer journey. It gives a more a refined picture on how advertising campaigns are performing on different gadgets. The attributes given to multi-device campaigns are specified as break-up between primary device conversion, assisting devices and device paths from desktop to mobile or laptop, or vice versa.

Hybrid Attribution with Time-Delay

This attribution model credits closest touch point that customer takes before making decision. Referring to customer journey, attribution of a touch point closest to conversion has a higher ROI than the lagging ones.


The prefix ‘hybrid’ refers to attribution attached to multiple touch points across multi-device, multi-channel campaigns.

Why Customizing Your Entire Marketing Attribution Strategy Makes Sense

The convergence of online marketing, web analytics and AdTech has introduced a new set of challenges for the marketers. In order to find the most relevant “hook” for lead generation, sales and promotional ROI, marketers need to be familiar with the concept of customized marketing attribution.

And that’s a good start for marketers who want to design marketing campaigns with touch points across the customer journey. Start attributing credits to various touch points in each campaign, and measure your success rate.

Break down silos for absolute attribution

The silo mindset is a huge barrier for marketers working on multiple campaigns. What can you expect from a customized marketing attribution model?

  • Understanding the marketing funnel driven by customer awareness, desire, interest, action and preference
  • Gauging the performance of exclusive touch points for different campaigns
  • Evaluating the exact conversion rate of marketing and sales campaigns
  • Finding visitor touch points that are readily available for free across:
  1. Purchase channels
  2. Marketing and advertising channels
  3. Fulfillment channels
  4. Post-purchase channels

Proper marketing attribution should unify the entire marketing effort towards one goal, measured in terms of ROI and effectiveness of each campaign. Attribution maximizes the level of collaboration and incentivizes the importance of analytical data across the organization.

Tightening the marketing technology infrastructure and their budget

According to Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey 2015-2016, MarTech accounts for 33% in the marketing budget, majority of which is directed at building digital infrastructure. Therefore, leveraging the marketing attribution model can help drive ROI-focused campaigns with accurate online-offline attributions.

How marketing attribution helps tighten the MarTech infrastructure budget?

Finding the Life Time Value of a Customer

The Life Time Value of a customer is a key parameter to decide the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. Whether the customer is a single-time buyer or a multi-point visitor, marketing attribution helps identify the best platform suitable to extract maximum value from each touch point interaction.

Performing versus Non-performing Touch Points

Do you get more response from the Facebook ads than Google ads? Have you tried running them individually and exclusively?

Map the response to understand how they fare against each other. Chances are high that one of them would be less effective than the other.

Touch points are like pins on the navigation map. When orchestrated together, they unify the idea of the marketing campaign as a whole. The touch points may not be effective in delivering the results as stand-alone but their effectiveness can be scaled up. The ROI from cross-platform campaigns can be maximized by removing the non-performing touch points and directing ROI-focused efforts at one or more performing touch points.

Getting the Exact Picture

Marketing attribution accounts for the level of communication between the teams running and analyzing the campaigns across multiple channels. Attribution analytics provides a sharper, clearer picture on how marketing teams optimize the campaigns at different stages of the funnel, guaranteeing a higher conversion rate on a real-time basis.

Getting the Exact Picture

Campaign Budget Estimation

Balancing brand awareness and ROI is a difficult task for any marketer, but attribution gives you the data required to justify how you are spending your resources. Attribution doesn’t just help you prove the impact of your marketing — it helps you to be a better marketer when it comes to budgeting.

Marketing Attribution: Opportunities and Challenges 

Marketers are getting rid of traditional boundaries between paid search, social, display, advertising and offline channels to create multi-channel centralized holistic brand appeal built over a rock-bed of seamless personalization. Geo-location marketing attribution models based on time-decay offer a closer touch point analysis than all other traditional attribution models.

Opportunities in Marketing Attribution 

  • Creating hyper-personalized campaigns to measure customer’s digital footprints
  • Clear distinction between single-touch and multi-touch point attribution
  • Balancing lead volume with lead quality based on defined metrics and marketing goals
  • Optimized marketing campaigns with ROI-focused sales activities aiming longer customer Life Time Value
  • Seamless integration of marketing attribution models with rest of the marketing stacks like CRM, email marketing and campaigns automation

With opportunities come challenges, and we have identified a few that may hamper attribution metrics.

Challenges in Marketing Attribution 


If you fail to identify all touch points of a campaign, it is not possible to attribute the event appropriately. As it happens with most multi-point attribution events, marketers miss key interactions that lead to conversions. Under-reporting of attributions affect efficiency of the marketing strategy.


Conversely, marketers may incorrectly attribute a non-consequential event or touch point as a key interaction in the consumer journey leading to over-reporting.

Ambiguous ROI figures

Shooting for the stars? Marketing attribution may not be able to help marketers with ambiguous ROI numbers that fail to match with marketing budgets in the first place. If ROI numbers are not properly established, marketing attribution could prove to be ineffectual.

Marketing attribution is OK. But, what about Sales Attribution! 

Marketing attribution might be projected as the bridge connecting marketing efforts with sales numbers. However, attribution is 100% given to marketing touch points and not sales points. To push marketing attribution, sales attribution is equally important and that’s what marketers have to account for as well.

Maximize Your ROI: Real time Omnichannel Attribution is the Holy Grail

Marketing attribution is all about figuring out exact ROI from existing campaigns in order to gain absolute best picture of how multiple touch points, devices and location affect digital and real-time marketing efforts. In short, “accurate” marketing attribution is the Holy Grail of success in an ever-expanding marketing technology landscape.

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