← Back to Blog

Why Last-Click Attribution Should Be a Last Resort

analyticsattribution modelmeasurement

Have you ever had an argument with a friend over sports? You know, the one where someone explains how LeBron wouldn’t have won the 2016 NBA Finals if Kyrie Irving didn’t make the go ahead 3-point shot in Game 7? It’s a very odd take, especially when you consider LeBron led his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks for the entire series. Just because Kyrie made “The Shot” in Game 7 shouldn’t mean he deserves all the credit for winning LeBron another championship.

If we can all agree it’s a team effort to win a championship in professional sports, why don’t we all agree that multiple channels in marketing play a role in driving a conversion? If we didn’t believe that multiple touchpoints could contribute to a conversion, why does any brand invest money in TV? Are brands lighting their money on fire? No, they’re not, which is exactly why it’s time to shift our mindset—or at least consider the fact that there’s not a ‘one size fits all’ solution—when it comes to marketing attribution.

What is marketing attribution and why does it matter?

Marketing attribution is an evaluation of touchpoints a consumer encounters before they eventually convert. The goal of marketing attribution is to help assign credit to singular or multiple touchpoints along a consumer’s journey. Although various attribution models exist, there is one common theme: there isn’t a universal attribution model that 100% accurately assigns credit to each touchpoint the way we think it should.

Some may wonder, “If we can’t accurately assign credit to the various touchpoints before a consumer converts, then what’s the point?” Well, it’s the chase of the ideal state.The idea of perfectly modeling data that precisely weighs each consumer’s view, action or search in a way that will alter media planning forever is the ultimate goal. 

Marketing attribution also brings forth a level of curiosity which allows for us to expand into other channels that can tap into unique audiences. Sure, the attributed conversion may have taken place in search, but perhaps that consumer would have never thought about searching for the brand or product without seeing a TV spot first. In many cases, search unfairly gets the conversion credit, unless a more holistic analysis is done to understand when TV went live and its overall effect on the media.

Understanding multi-channel attribution also helps develop a strategy to effectively promote a product, service or brand to a targeted audience. Not every product, service or brand can be effectively marketed through just one channel. Instead, other channels may be more effective depending on where consumers fall in the conversion funnel.

Types of marketing attribution models 

There are enough attribution models in marketing that can confuse even the most savvy marketers. Attribution models can be segmented into two different types: single-touch and multi-touch. Of course, there are several variations of those models available for marketers. Choosing the right attribution model for your business needs to take into account your sales cycle, how many channels are being activated, and an understanding of each channel’s role in the conversion process. 

Here’s a quick summary of the most common attribution models in marketing:

  • First Touch:  Gives 100% of the credit to the 1st interaction with an ad.
  • Last Touch:  Gives 100% of the credit to the last interaction with an ad.
  • Linear:  Distributes credit evenly across every interaction with an ad.
  • Time Decay:  Distributes credit to interactions with ads closer to the time of the conversion.
  • Position-Based:  Gives 40% of the credit to the first and last ad interactions with the remaining 20% spread out to other interactions in between.
  • Data-Drive (Google Ads):  Distributes credit for conversions based on past data for the conversion, as well as calculating the actual contribution from each interaction across the conversion path.

Focus on what drives the business

Truth be told, there’s only one thing that matters when it comes to marketing— how does it correlate with underlying business metrics?

At Arm Candy, our goal is to help grow our clients’ businesses through performance marketing. By doing so, we understand that success in-platform doesn’t necessarily translate into success for the business. Having a holistic view of the business helps our team and our clients understand the lift performance media generates by activating various channels.

Understanding what generates a lift will require a 3rd-party reporting tool, such as Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics. Both reporting tools have their own attribution models to choose from. However, it’s important to keep track of baseline performance across each channel that is activated. Keep in mind, these reporting tools will only be able to track where conversions are generated from with proper (and available) tracking in place. TV, audio, and other programmatic channels generally require analyzing lift across channels to measure the success of the campaign. I’m also a big search guy, so I want to remind you that it’s always important to keep track of your brand’s search volume to understand if those higher-funnel campaigns are contributing to the growth of your brand.

Marketing works: a case study

An e-commerce client wanted to focus more on driving “last-touch” purchases for their business, meaning we had to pause any campaigns that were not a strong contributor of purchases, according to their 3rd-party reporting tool. The decision to focus on last-touch campaigns, specifically Search and Shopping, was with the intention of improving media performance by saving on total dollars spent. 

Instead of positively impacting ROAS, the decision to turn off display and Facebook had a massive ripple effect across the business: a 14% decrease in revenue across most channels. Interestingly, the revenue for Search and Shopping were relatively unchanged, but the intended impact of an overall ROAS lift for the business did not happen, as the value of the multi-channel campaign was underestimated. 

This noticeable decrease in revenue happened in just under two weeks, to which the client made the decision to turn the paused channels back on. By re-activating those channels, overall revenue saw a 35% lift compared to the same time period during which they were paused. In fact, as a result of the test, the client recognized the need for those channels in the mix and actually increased budgets in the channels that had previously been turned off, resulting in even better overall performance than before. 

Let’s get back to the basics

Despite all of the various attribution models available to marketers, our goals should always ladder up to business goals. Activating a channel or campaign should have some intended impact in driving a lift for the business in some capacity. Channels can also work together in harmony to drive home a conversion to generate the lift. The days of using single-touch attribution models are over. It’s time to focus on creating an impactful experience for our consumers and drive growth for our clients.

Written by Zach Thompson

Zach is an experienced digital marketer, with specialties including all things Google and data analysis. Zach’s MO is testing almost everything in effort to stay up-to-date and continually challenge best practices. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his wife, daughters, and two pups, hitting mulligans on the golf course, and binging his favorite shows.

Related Posts

Finding the Right Dance Partner for Ad Tech

Why Last-Click Attribution Should Be a Last Resort

Combating the Labor Shortage with Paid Media