Marketing Attribution: Guide To The Types & Why It’s So Important

If you are new to the marketing world, or just trying to learn more about it, knowing what attribution is and the effects it can have on your business is critical. Knowing where your e-commerce customers are coming from, and what role they play in a sale are both key data points. While no two businesses are the same, knowing this information can help you understand where to put your marketing spend, how to sell to other customers, and new campaigns you should try. What is attribution though? Are there different types? Let’s take a deeper dive.

What is marketing attribution?

The short answer is it’s the way you track your ROI, or return on investment. You can find amazing attribution reports by using tools like Triple Whale. To find attribution, you are looking at how customers are finding you as well as your products, what ads are closing the sales, and what touchpoints are part of their customer journey. There are several ways to look at attribution, though. There is a big picture approach with multiple touchpoints and a more focused approach on a single touchpoint. Let’s talk more about the types of attribution and what they are called, how they work, etc.

Why is attribution important?

We live in a time of information and data. Data is king. If you’re not using data-driven approaches to your marketing and ad spend, you are spinning your wheels. Knowing how customers got to your website can help you get more customers as well as sales from existing customers.

Types of marketing attribution

There are several different types of attribution, and they are all broken down into different subcategories as well. You have multi-source attribution (which breaks down into several different types), first click attribution, last-click attribution, and triple attribution. They all have their unique pros and cons, but in order to choose the best type for you and your company, let’s talk about each type a bit more in-depth.

Single-source (first click or last-click attribution)

Single-source attribution is where the attribution only goes to the customer’s first or last touchpoint–instead of the whole journey like in multi-source. While these might sound similar, each of these types of attribution can have very different messages and data they convey.

  • First touch attribution can be easy to identify since it’s your customer’s introduction to your products. It’s the hook, so to speak. 
  • Last touch attribution is also fairly easy to identify. It is the part of your marketing that closed the sale. This is also very critical information that can communicate something completely different from the first touchpoint. 

Both sources provide great information and you can build plans with both. However, you might be missing the big picture without more information. It can leave you with less information or even steer you in the wrong direction since you’re not noting the customer’s entire journey. So, keep this in mind as you decide what type of attribution you end up using.

Multi-source (or fractional attribution)

Multi-source attribution focuses on the entire customer journey. This is where you are tracking and giving credit to all of the touchpoints that your customer interacted with before purchasing. For example, maybe they did a Google search for a product that you sell. Then they saw your ad on Facebook so they clicked through and kept looking. After that, maybe they watched one of your YouTube videos. Then they FINALLY decided to buy. So, the attribution, or credit, is given to multiple marketing touchpoints. 

Customer journey screenshot from Triple Whale

Triple pixel attribution screenshot from Triple Whale

Which attribution type is best?

From our standpoint, multi-source is absolutely the correct way to do it and if you’re making decisions on how to grow your business based on first or last touch, you will be making decisions that could negatively impact the business. However, every e-commerce business is a bit different and every marketer will give you a different answer. It’s really dependent on your product, data, and other factors. That is why it’s important for you to work with a marketing agency that’s willing to take the time to really hone in on your data, who understands your business and your audience (this is why niche ecommerce agencies perform the best), and can make an educated recommendation. 

Where to get the best attribution reports

While it’s highly recommended that you work with a marketing agency that knows how to read the data and use it properly, you can find the data yourself from a few different sources. Places like Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, and Triple Whale can provide you with this data. These applications can help you and your agency take the complex data and break it down into more readable ways to take in this information and create a plan.





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