9 Marketing Attribution Models: Which One Suits You the Best?

Posted By: editor
Posted On: 19 Nov, 2020

In today’s digital world, marketers rely heavily on multiple campaigns to reach prospects and engage them. While this practice enables them to customize the user journey along every step, it also presents unique challenges in attributing credits to the channels for creating an impact on the prospect’s decision to convert. Marketers can address these challenges using attribution models. 

In Attribution modeling, credits for the successful completion of the desired goal are given to respective marketing touchpoints so that marketers can analyze the working and the efficiency of each channel and message. 

Having said that, there are various attribution models at a marketer’s disposal and not every model works for everyone. While some are easy to adopt and evaluate, some need intense calculations and powerful tools. Also, different factors like business goals or buying cycles can make one model preferable over the other. Hence, marketers should select the right model which best suits their needs and is in line with the company’s capabilities.

In our guide to attribution models, we will walk through the popular attribution models and the scenarios in which marketers can use them.

Single Touch Marketing Attribution Models: 

These models assign all the credit for the successful fulfillment of a certain predefined goal to only one touchpoint of the user journey, which usually is the first or the last touchpoint. 

ModelDefinitionPrinciple
First Touch Attribution Model 
-To analyze and optimize the forefront activities 
-Useful for businesses with a short buying cycle or whose aim is to create brand awareness  
The credit for the successful completion of a specified goal is given to the first touchpoint that the customer engages with  
E.g., A prospective visitor sees a Google ad and lands on the company’s website for the first time. They might browse around, follow the Facebook page, and leave. After a few days, they come back and purchase the product. Despite no immediate purchase and interactions with other channels, the credit goes to the Google ad as it was the first touch of the brand with the customer 
First touchpoint or the interaction that the user has with the company is most important as it creates the first impression of the brand which can highly influence them, and without it, the conversion would not have been possible in the first place itself 
Pros: Simple and straightforward 
Cons: Ignores the effects of any potentially important marketing channels that occur at a later point, such as retargeting ads 
Last Touch Attribution Model 
-To analyze and optimize the end of the funnel activities
-Helpful for businesses if sales funnel is wide at the top, but narrow at bottom  
Attributes the entire credit of the successful completion of the desired goal to the last touchpoint that is present in the customer journey 
E.g., If a customer knows the company for several years from their ads or word of mouth and has brought a product for the first time during a particular campaign, the last touch attribution model assigns the whole credit to that campaign but not to previous ads 
The last touchpoint has the greatest impact on the user in the decision process and without the efforts of this touchpoint, successful completion of the desired goal is not possible 
Pros: Simplest to implement and easy to evaluate 
Cons: Ignores everything that happens before the final interaction 

Multi-Touch Marketing Attribution Models: 

These models consider the importance of all the touchpoints that helped in the lead generation and hence give credit to each of them 

Model Definition Principle 
Linear Attribution Model 
-Useful for businesses with a small team and a long sales cycle 
Gives equal credit to all the touchpoints in a customer journey that lead to successful goal completion All the marketing touchpoints have influenced the customer’s decision and hence all are important 
Pros: Gives a more balanced look at the whole marketing strategy 
Cons: Since this model assigns equal importance to every touchpoint of the customer journey, it doesn’t help to fully optimize the marketing mix, because not all touchpoints are equal 
U-shaped Attribution Model 
-Lead reports/ marketing organizations that don’t do marketing targeted to prospects beyond the lead stage can use this model 
Splits the credit for a sale between a prospect’s first interaction with the brand and the moment they convert to a lead. 40% of the credit is given to each of these points, with the remaining 20% spread out between any other interactions that happened in the middle The first point of interaction of a lead with a business is just as important as when that lead converts 
Pros: Emphasizes the importance of two key touchpoints: the anonymous first touch that got the visitor in the door and the lead conversion touch 
Cons: Does not consider marketing efforts beyond lead conversion 
Time Decay Attribution Model 
-Useful for businesses which deal with a long sales cycle, such as for expensive B2B purchases 
Attributes more credit to the marketing touchpoint that is closer to the final goal as compared to the earlier ones in the users’ journey More recent touchpoints have more impact on the users’ decisions as compared to the earlier touchpoints present in the users’ journey 
Pros: Gives credit to marketing channels throughout the multiple stages of the funnel 
Cons: Minimizes the effect of top-of-the-funnel marketing techniques 
W-shaped Attribution Model
-Businesses can use this model to identify the touchpoints that result in an action 
-Best suitable for businesses in B2B marketing space and with clear funnel stages 
This model just like the U-shaped model gives more credits to certain touchpoints over others. It gives 30% of the credit each to the first, lead creation, and the opportunity creation touchpoints. The remaining 10 % credit is distributed to the other middle touchpoints in the customer journey Highlights the three key funnel transitions that marketing impacts in the customer journey 
Pros: In addition to giving extra emphasis to the anonymous first touch and the lead conversion touch, it also emphasizes the opportunity creation touchpoint 
Cons: Businesses with less than 4 touchpoints cannot use this model 
Z-shaped Attribution Model 
-Used to evaluate which marketing channels are driving actions towards closing a deal 
-Businesses which have comprehensive customer journey and strong alignment between marketing and sales teams can use this model 
Four touchpoints of the users’ journey (first touchpoint, the lead generation touchpoint, opportunity creation touchpoint, and the last touchpoint) are given 22.5% credit each, and the remaining 10% of the credit is distributed over the rest of the middle touchpoints in the journey Accounts for marketing beyond the opportunity stage. Rather than two key stages represented in the U-Shaped model or the three key stages in the W-Shaped model, this model adds a fourth key stage: the customer close 
Pros: Adding more key touchpoints gives a better and more accurate representation of the customer journey 
Cons: Businesses with less than 5 touchpoints cannot use this model 
Weighted Multi-Touch Attribution Model 
-Useful for businesses that have long buying cycles and plenty of data on hand 
Allows businesses to give a custom amount of weight to touchpoints they think are most important. It provides the most nuanced look at what’s getting sales Assigns a percentage of the revenue credit for a customer to an array of touchpoints, as defined by the respective multi-touch attribution model chosen by the business 
Pros: Creates the most accurate depiction of the customer journey 
Cons: Difficult to create and requires a lot of data 
Algorithmic or data-driven model
-Businesses that have long and complicated sales processes can use this model. It allows them to do an in-depth study of each stage of the purchase funnel 
Allocates credit to each touchpoint based on the probability theory. The two most used models of this category are: Markov Model and Shapley Value model These models remove a particular touchpoint from the customers’ journey and then see the impact on the final goal completion success and based on that these models assign conversion credits to that touchpoints
Pros: Businesses can give credit to the touchpoints that matter most to them rather than just giving equal credit to the first, middle, and last touchpoints. It provides the most accurate data from the consumer journey 
Cons: These models are mathematically intense and require more advanced or powerful tools 

Conclusion: 

As consumers explore new channels and businesses adopt advanced marketing techniques, attribution becomes crucial to centering the entire marketing team around a common goal of revenue generation. Having said that, the configuration of the website and analytics platforms, the convergence of data across these platforms and the ability to understand interactions that occur between channels are the major prerequisites businesses should ensure to reap the benefits of attribution models.

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