What is Marketing Attribution? It’s Understanding the Customer Journey

What is Marketing Attribution? It’s Understanding the Customer Journey

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Know Which Customer Touch-Points Drive ROI with These Marketing Attribution Models

How much do you really know about your customers? It’s a question we marketers hear practically every day. Normally, we answer quickly and with confidence. We know our customers. But, do we really? Do we know their pain points, what motivates them, and how our organization can complete their “jobs-to-be-done” better than the competition? When marketing teams truly take a step back and dissect their marketing attribution model, the hard truth sets in like a cold chill, maybe you don’t know nearly as much as you thought you did.

What is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing attribution within digital marketing is the analysis and process of identifying a set of customer touchpoints or interactions that attribute to a user making (or not making) a purchase decision. Attribution used to be pretty easy to track, but in today’s omnichannel world, these touchpoints can span from a consumer’s desktop device, to their tablets, video views, and to their mobile phone.

marketing attribution loop graphic

Why Strategizing Marketing Attribution Is Essential To Success

There’s no question – modern marketers are dealing with an increasingly advanced customer. They are research-obsessed, demanding, and impatient; but ultimately, they recognize they are all that matters. If your brand isn’t doing everything it can to show a consumer how you can complete their “jobs-to-be-done” better than the competition, then your competition certainly is.

Over the last few years, defining the key touchpoints in a user or customer journey has become increasingly difficult for marketers. We’re seeing more and more users span from their desktop or laptop computer to their mobile device or to their tablet when researching and educating themselves about a brand or product. That’s why it’s become harder to define what points through this user journey truly impact sales or profits the most.

A customer conversion typically happens after a relationship has developed between consumer and a brand. But, what aspect of attribution is building the relationship the most?

As fast as technology has evolved in the last five years, Google marketers have to move even faster to stay ahead of the game.

There are three major factors that have massively influenced this digital marketing transformation.

  1. The mobile device and its impact on consumers lives
  2. The internet speeds at which consumers can access information and products
  3. The ability to share that information with anyone and everyone seamlessly

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any marketer, the more you know about your audience, the more you understand what you can offer potential customers searching for your products. That’s why this article will be focused on why every organization needs to test different marketing attribution models, instead of just focusing on a last-click attribution.

If Google marketing professionals wish to truly improve their customers’ lives and excel at creating the most attention-focused messaging, we have to collect what users are searching for in search engines, study the website analytics, and be able to seamlessly bridge the gap between the customer’s desktop experience and the mobile experience. But, more importantly, we need to understand how these cross-device experiences affect our customer’s lives and purchase decision.

When you properly strategize different marketing attribution models, your organization can:

  • Remarket better and drive more conversions
  • Become part of a customer’s purchase decision earlier in the funnel or while a customer searches opposing products or services
  • Find invaluable signals of intent for particular products or services

Which Marketing Attribution Model Is Right For Your Business?

Brands, marketers, and data scientists create a myriad of marketing attribution models in order for them to gain a better handle on the customer conversion process and how their organization should value each conversion.

These models enable marketers to measure across all touchpoints and identify the moments that really matter in shifting the customer journey from education to purchase. Just like your customers aren’t “one-size-fits-all” there is no one answer to which marketing attribution model is right for your business and industry.

In the healthcare, education, and automotive industries, a linear marketing attribution model may be the most efficient to judge what parts of your brand journey create the most success.

Where the cosmetics or beauty industry may benefit more from a time decay marketing attribution model.

In addition, the telecom industry may find more value in a position-based marketing attribution model that focuses on the customer’s first and last interaction.

If your organization truly wishes to answer that question, you have to align your businesses and marketing goals and test different marketing attribution models. Then delve into the cross-device analytics of what your marketing team is finding to help differentiate what model is best for your success.

6 Marketing Attribution Models Your Organization Should Test

marketing attribution models graphic

1. Last Click Attribution

Last click attribution is the most commonly used customer touchpoint model. It attributes all the conversion value to the last touchpoint in the conversion path. This usually occurs with lower funnel keywords and devices, while upper funnel keywords and devices receive no credit for initiating or assisting conversions.

If your organization is completely focused on giving credit to the click that drove a consumer to your website or landing page and converted, then this marketing attribution model is perfect for your organization.

However, if your business and marketing team desire to learn more about the full span of your customer’s journey, then a different marketing attribution model should be utilized. Last click attribution cannot measure the complexity of cross-device consumer behavior, where ad clicks occur on one device and the conversion occurs on another device.

2. First Click Attribution

A first click attribution model is the exact opposite of last click, it’s solely focused on the first touchpoint or interaction in your potential customer’s brand journey. Regardless of the conversion outcome, first click attribution will give full credit to the first interaction that drove that customer to your website or landing page for the first time. This marketing attribution model normally utilizes upper funnel keywords and devices for customer interaction.

If your organization is focused on what impacts lead generation and utilizing form fills, then this marketing attribution model is perfect for your brand. However, since this attribution model doesn’t place any emphasis on what drove the sale there are little optimizations to be made.

3. Time Decay Attribution

A time decay attribution model will allocate the most credit or weight to the customer touchpoint that’s responsible for the conversion. It will also allocate less credit to a touchpoint that’s further away from a conversion.

This marketing attribution model is great for marketers looking to understand and optimize the customer interactions that drive conversions as well as the touchpoints that led up to that customer conversion. If your business is focused on optimizing around the touchpoints that drove customer conversions, this is a fantastic attribution model that’s also very conservative in growth.

However, if you’re trying to understand the whole customer journey evenly, this may be an inefficient model because early onset customer interactions will be ignored.

4. Linear Attribution

A linear attribution model will assign credit or weight to all customer interaction points evenly.  So, if your brand journey has four customer touchpoints, then each interaction will receive 25% of the credit of the conversion value.

This is an incredible marketing attribution model for marketers looking to holistically understand the entire customer path evenly while maintaining a moderate growth strategy.

However, if you’re looking to truly understand which customer interaction is the most effective then you may want a position based or last click-based attribution strategy because linear attribution will evenly weigh your highest performing interactions with your lowest performing interactions.

5. Position-Based Attribution

A position-based attribution model will evenly weigh your first and last customer touchpoints at 40% of the conversion value while dividing the remaining 20% of the conversion value to all of the remaining customer touchpoints in-between.

If your organization is looking for an aggressive growth strategy and you’re wanting to understand and give credit to each segment of the customer journey it will allow you to optimize your first and last customer interaction for continued growth and success.   

However, since the majority of the weight is distributed to the first and last interaction, your other touchpoints during the consumer’s journey may not gain as much attention as they deserve.

6. Data-Driven Attribution

First off, in order to qualify for a data-driven attribution model, your account must have at least 15,000 clicks and a single conversion action must have at least 600 conversions within 30 days.

Now, if your account currently achieves those metrics, then data-driven marketing attribution may be a perfect model to better understanding your entire customer journey and what truly impacts conversions.

Digital marketers using rules-based attribution are all about simplicity and incremental progress.

Instead of relying on elaborate models to assign credit, they build and test individual rules that help to explain how their marketing channels work together. But, the benefit of the data-driven model is that it’s algorithmic, personalized and fully automated.

data driven model vs rules based table

What Is Cross-Device Measurement?

Think about how you shop for most big-ticket items or book vacations.

I could almost guarantee that out of everyone that ever reads this piece, there isn’t a single person who has booked a vacation on their phone in a single setting. If you have, you are bold. But, that’s not how the majority of society engages in a brand journey. They normally engage in several different devices at several different times throughout their purchase decision.

Like we talked about earlier, a last click marketing attribution model gives all the conversion value to the last touchpoint in a consumer’s brand journey, where the upper funnel devices don’t receive any credit for assisting the conversion.

So, if your brand is only focused on one aspect of the journey how can you truly understand what’s most effective?

You can’t. Unless you’re looking at cross-device activity reports.

Below is a user journey that sums up the importance of cross-device measurement:

Jenny is the definition of a foodie. She’s on her work lunch break and daydreaming about a trip to Spain. So, she takes out her phone and searches Google for “best food cities in Spain.” She’s prompted with many responses, but lands on a blog post about San Sebastian in the search results and it’s brought to her by Airbnb. Completely satisfied with this information, she continues her work and goes about her day.

However, when Jenny gets home later that night, the thoughts of San Sebastian fill her mind. The entrees and deserts she viewed earlier are completely distracting her from Netflix.

Seeing as she has a little more time to research San Sebastian, she gets on her laptop and heads to Airbnb. As she’s researching, not only does she look into the best places to stay, but the best food and the most exciting experiences during her stay. She finds some incredible information, as well as a place that fits her budget, but she’s not ready to book quite yet.

The next day at work, she’s again on her lunch break and is scrolling through Instagram. When suddenly, she’s served a display ad for Airbnb as well as a highly detailed piece of email marketing talking about San Sebastian and the apartments, houses, or condos she was researching. She’s then called into a meeting and has to focus on work.

That night, Jenny logs back onto Airbnb, spends a bit more time researching the right place to stay, the best places to eat and the coolest experiences she can do while she’s in San Sebastian and decides to book the trip.

Which part of this consumer journey do you attribute with the most impact?

If you’re thinking it is an individual part, you may want to think again. While individual parts are important, it’s the whole holistic brand journey that truly impacts a customer to make a decision.

It can’t be limited to one touchpoint or interaction.

As a team, they all work together in assisting and nurturing a consumer through your sales and education path.

Sure, Jenny may have completed the purchase on a desktop environment and there should be some weight given to that conversion touchpoint, but how does that influence her more than the display ad she was served on mobile? Or on the initial mobile search where Airbnb was delivered in the search results?

Cross-device activity reports will:

  • Bring new cross-device insights by showing the full cross-device conversion path for search campaigns from desktop-to-mobile-to-tablet so your organization knows where you’re converting.
  • Provide an opportunity to show your brand how mobile is potentially undervalued based on last-click, last-device models.

To Sum Up Marketing Attribution Models For Your Business

When all is said and done, each marketing attribution model may give your organization new insights on how to improve the platform, messaging, and device that you’re using to communicate with your true market audience.

But, it’s only through testing and optimizations that you’ll understand which attribution models produce the highest ROI and most conversions for your business.

If your organization is still shaking its head over Google Ads attribution models and what strategies your company should implement to increase brand awareness and maximize profits, reach out to Evolve Digital Labs for your free consult.