Determining the best attribution model for your ad campaign

Lucas Sommer defines what an attribution model is and how marketers can use it to properly understand the impact your advertising campaign has when it comes to converting customers.

Now that you’ve developed your ad campaign, how will you know whether engagement with your audience contributes to a sale? To properly understand your ad’s impact on converting customers, you’ll need to utilise an attribution model. But which one should you use?

Determining how your ad compels prospects toward conversion and how to measure that influence can be like Indiana Jones searching for the holy grail. However entertaining that film was, there doesn’t have to be as much intrigue and drama when trying to understand your engagements’ influence on converting customers. Using the right attribution model can mitigate much, if not all, of the uncertainty surrounding the impact each engagement has. But first, let’s define what an attribution model is.

Defining the attribution model

An attribution model is a methodology used by marketers to identify and weigh the impact of various engagements customers have with your brand during their buying journey. Virtually all of us embark on a journey when making a purchase, whether it’s particular ice cream or the latest laptop computer.

Each purchase we make is the culmination of experiences, learnings and decisions that lead to an actual buy. As a result, an attribution model assigns weight to the individual engagements and interactions a prospect has with your brand. Those engagements can be online or offline and include everything from clicking on a digital ad to attending a webinar.

An attribution model may contain a single engagement (referred to as a single-touch model) or multiple engagements (known as a multi-touch model). The weight of each engagement can be different. The key in any attribution model is the ability to properly measure the engagement in conjunction with how customers relate to your brand.

Understanding the difference between attribution models

There are different attribution models, and each one is suited for different purposes.

First-click model

A first click attribution model represents a single engagement, although there may be multiple engagements during the buying journey. In this model, the first engagement a customer has with your brand is considered the most important. This can help when the buying journey is not very complex and how customers first hear about your brand, or specific offering is critically important.

Last-click model

Similar to the first-click model, the last-click attribution model maintains a focus on a single engagement. In this case, it’s the one at the very end, just before the sale. While there can be additional touchpoints in this model, all the credit for the sale is attributed to the last engagement. 

The last-click model can be beneficial when using enticements to lead a prospect toward a buying decision. In these scenarios, previous engagements occur, but the last engagement is the one that makes the difference for the conversion.

U-shaped model

When it’s best to attribute more weight to both the first and the last engagement before conversion, the U-shaped attribution model is useful. With this approach, 40 percent of the sales credit is given to both the first and last engagement. The remaining 20 percent of the credit is spread evenly across all other engagements in between.

The U-shaped model is worth considering when brands are interested in knowing which engagements first attracted the customer’s interest and which one was responsible for the conversion at the end.

Time decay model

The attribution approach that gives more credit to those engagements closer to the sale than those at the beginning of the journey is the time-decay model. Those engagements earlier in the journey are deemed less important than those that occur just before the sale.

Brands often use time decay attribution models when campaigns are more awareness oriented rather than sale-oriented. Campaigns that introduce a new brand or several products and services also work well with a time decay attribution model.

The linear model

Sometimes, marketers are not inclined to give extra weight to the first or last engagement during the buying journey. Instead, when you want to identify engagements that lead to a buying decision, a linear model might suffice. In this approach, each touchpoint, from the initial interaction to the last one before the purchase, receives equal credit. This is the case whether there are three engagements or 15 engagements.

 The linear approach can be beneficial for marketers interested in seeing the big picture, as this approach can provide insight into a brand’s entire marketing strategy.

Data-driven model

Of all the possible models identified here, the data-driven model is the most comprehensive approach. This model can be tailored specifically to your brand’s individual needs and situation.

Because the data-driven model is unique to your organisation, it can provide the greatest insight into your campaigns and, ultimately, lead to greater revenue. If organisations are inclined to invest more to know which engagements had the greater influence on a buying decision, using the data-driven attribution model can pay significant dividends.

It’s all about revenue

At the end of the day, what matters most to marketers – and the brands they work for – is revenue. More specifically, you want to achieve the greatest amount of revenue with the most efficient deployment of marketing resources possible.

By using one or more of the above attribution models, marketers can determine how best to assign valuable marketing resources to those engagements that attract prospects, compellingly engage them, and ultimately lead them to make a buying decision.

Lucas Sommer is the Director of Marketing at LeadsRx.

Photo by Forest Simon on Unsplash.