How To Choose The Right Attribution Model For Your Needs

Written by Indicative Team


Word of mouth, content marketing, social media, websites, emails, and apps. Individuals are inundated with different touchpoints along their customer journey. While these touchpoints allow businesses to reach consumers with the goal of converting them, it limits a business’s understanding on which touchpoints have the greatest impact on customer conversion.

For a marketing strategy to be successful, businesses need to be able to rank a channels influence on a customers’ decision to purchase, to understand which campaigns need to be focused on.

Attribution is the analytical practice of determining which marketing tactics such as channels and messages, are contributing to business sales or conversions. This analytical practice is undertaken by evaluating the marketing touchpoints a consumer encounters on their customer journey resulting in a purchase.

An attribution model, is the rule, or set of rules that determines how conversion credit is assigned to different touchpoints. Attribution is typically applied to more digital campaigns compared to offline campaigns due to the feasibility of conversion measurement.

As more customer journey’s are becoming non-linear with an increased variety of touchpoints, resulting in more attribution models being created, it is increasingly more difficult to understand which one is the right one for your needs.  A one size fits all attribution model is not a solution.

There are currently two overarching attribution models, and five sub-models within them. The two broad attribution models are: single-touch attribution and multi-touch attribution.

Single touch attribution is the model of attributing a conversion to a single touchpoint.  Specifically, it is the model of assigning 100% conversion credit to one marketing touchpoint. 
Single touch attribution is easy to implement, however it neglects the wider, more holistic journey. This is where multi-touch attribution comes in. 

Multi-touch attribution is a set of rules that assigns credits for sales and conversion to multiple touchpoints across the customer journey. Specifically, it is assigning credit to all the touchpoints a consumer may have interacted with including; digital ads, retail location, website, packaging, and promotional events.

Single Touch Attribution contains the sub models of First Touch and Last Touch attribution.

First Touch attribution is the assignment of conversion credit to the first marketing touchpoint. First touch attribution puts emphasis on discovery, specifically emphasizing top-of-funnel efforts within a marketing strategy.

It is useful for demand generation and understanding how customers are introduced to a business, however it limits businesses by not providing a clear understanding how they ultimately generated revenue

Last touch attribution is the assignment of conversion credit to the last marketing touchpoint. Last touch attribution, emphasizes conversion and puts pressure on discovery.

Last touch attribution helps business understand which campaigns have direct influence on conversion rate, however it doesn’t show the relationship between the last touchpoint and other influences.

Multi-touch Attribution has three sub-models; Linear Attribution, U-Shaped Attribution, and Time Decay Attribution.

Linear Attribution splits conversion credit equally across each touchpoint or interaction along a customer’s journey. Simply, this attribution model gives a participation award to every marketing channel a business used, giving users a balanced look at the whole marketing strategy, rather than focusing on a specific particular conversion point.

However, this model is limited as it doesn’t specify the varying impact of each touchpoint, not answering the question of what was the most and least successful channel.

U-Shaped Attribution emphasizes and credits the first and last touchpoint a user encounters with more credit than the touchpoints encountered in the middle of the customer journey. Specifically, the first and last touch touchpoint encountered is given 40% of the conversion credit. The remaining 20% is distributed equally among all other touchpoints encountered in the journey.

This model may mislead businesses, as if a business needs more than two touchpoints to make a conversion, it will not be effectively acknowledged.

Time Decay Attribution assigns credit to touchpoints encountered closer to the time of conversion, compared to those that occurred further back in the customer journey. This model allows business to see the importance of each touchpoint up to point of conversion, allowing businesses to optimize campaigns for driving conversions.

Businesses need to understand that this model limits complete understanding as it does not give a reasonable amount of credit to the top-of-funnel marketing efforts, due to those efforts being the farthest from conversion.

To effectively understand the pros and cons of the different models, a customer’s journey and the touchpoints most influential in the rate of conversion, multiple attribution models may need to be used.

Regardless of which attribution model is used, it is more beneficial to use them, than not, as the benefits are routed in boosting ROI and generation of greater profit margins.