Marketing Attribution 101: Different Models (With Examples)

Marketing Attribution 101: Different Models (With Examples)

Marketing Attribution is one of the most important aspects in the role of a marketing leader - evaluate which of these models work the best for your company and use them to measure your results.
Krishna Srinivas V
Krishna Srinivas V
Nov 23, 2020
Marketing Attribution

Table of Contents:

What is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing Attribution is the science of evaluating which of your marketing channels is directly contributing to your conversions and revenue.

Marketing Attribution is done by tracing the different touchpoints that a customer encountered before deciding to purchase your product. 

The purpose of Marketing attribution is to identify which of the marketing channels that the customer interacted with had the most impact in nudging them to make the purchase.

How has Marketing Attribution evolved in recent years?

One of the reasons Marketing attribution has seen a steady rise in importance in the recent years is, the rise in technology which have engendered new channels to reach out to customers.

There is a whole avenue of digital-first marketing channels that have opened up to companies (podcasts, Youtube ads, and webinars) which were not even in the picture 10-15 years ago. 

According to the Online marketing institute, it now takes marketers, 7 to 13+ touches to deliver a qualified lead. 

As these new platforms proliferate, it has pushed marketers to evaluate their existing frameworks and adopt newer models to measure the success of their campaigns.

To keep in tandem with the touchpoints, the marketing attribution models have also evolved to provide a level of granularity and context into the buyer’s journey that can accurately distill large volumes of data into individual-level insights that can be used to optimize your outreach efforts.

Why is Marketing Attribution important?

Here’s why Marketing Attribution is important for every marketing team:

Let’s say you spend $1000 every month on your marketing efforts which includes the ads you run, the email marketing campaigns you send out, the blog you write, the webinars you conduct etc.

As a marketing leader, you want to know which of these channels gave you a good ROI, which channels didn’t pick up and any other details that will help you decide how much you should spend on what channel.

Say, your originally allocated the $1000 equally across channels last month:

Blogs - $300 

Email Marketing Campaigns - $80

Webinar - $500

Google and LinkedIn ads - $120 

With marketing attribution in place, you'd be able to tell how much each channel contributed to your overall revenue at any given time period. For example, if a customer saw both your email campaign and the Google ad, marketing attribution helps you understand which piece of content was instrumental in nudging the customer to make the ultimate purchase decision.

Based on this information, you can plan your upcoming month’s marketing budget accordingly to ensure maximum ROI from your channels. 

Marketing Attribution Models: Different Types

There are three types of Marketing Attribution, namely single-touch attribution , Multi-touch attribution, and Custom Attribution. 

Let’s take a look at the different types of Marketing Attribution: 

Single-touch attribution

The single-touch marketing attribution credits the conversion to one particular marketing touch-point. Single-touch attribution is easy to implement in that, you simply identify one channel as the key driver for the customer’s purchase and credit it. 

There are two models within Single-touch attribution:

  1. First-touch attribution
  2. Last-touch attribution

First-touch attribution

First-touch attribution gives full attribution to the first touchpoint that a customer sees in their buyer’s journey. 

It does not consider the additional or subsequent marketing channels that might have played a role in conversion and instead gives the entire credit to the first point of interaction that the customer had before deciding to purchase.

Example of First-touch attribution

Say, a customer sees an ad for your product on Google but does not make a purchase at that point. 

Later, the same customer clicks on one of your email campaigns and eventually converts.

The first-touch attribution model completely ignores the email campaign or any other interactions that might have taken place later, fully attributing only the Google ads for the conversion, since it was the first touch-point.

Last-touch attribution

The last-touch attribution is the exact opposite of the first-touch attribution model, giving full attribution to the last touch-point that a customer interacted with before making the purchase.

Unlike the first-touch attribution model, when using this model, you completely ignore every interaction except the very last channel, right after which the customer converted.

Example of Last-touch attribution

Let’s take the same example as above - if your customer sees an ad campaign first, and later interacts with one of your email campaigns, when using the last-touch attribution model, the email campaign is fully credited with the conversion.

Multi-touch attribution

Multi-touch attribution models take into account the multiple touchpoints that a customer interacts with in the lead up to the purchase of your product. 

There are different models under Multi-touch attribution and under each model the weightage given to particular touch-points differs - while multi-touch attribution model is slightly trickier to calculate, as you consider all the touch-points that a customer interacts with, these tend to be much more accurate than single-touch attribution models.

Linear Attribution

Linear attribution model records every touchpoint that a customer engaged with in the lead-up to purchase and gives equal weightage to all of them.

If a customer has interacted with four channels over a period of time before deciding to purchase, when using the Linear attribution model, the credit is given to all four channels equally at 25% each. 

Example of Linear Attribution 

Let’s assume that the three channels you use are Email marketing, PPC ads, and Podcast ads. 

When using the Linear attribution model, each channel gets a 33% credit for any conversion.

Time Decay Attribution

Time Decay attribution model, as the name suggests, gives weightage to different touchpoints using time as an important dimension.

When using this model, the touchpoints that are closer to conversion get more weightage than the ones earlier in the buyer’s journey, with the premise that latter touch points would have played a significant role in pushing the customer toward a purchase.

Example of Time-decay Attribution 

Let’s take the same example as the previous model, with the three channels being email marketing, PPC ads and Podcast ads.

But when using the Time-decay attribution, you factor in the order in which the customers interacted with the three channels. 

Let’s assume a customer had first heard about your product over a podcast and then clicked on a PPC to visit your website and sign up for a trial - and finally clicks on one of your email promotions and converts.

Here’s how the credit breakdown looks when using Time-decay attribution:

Podcast: 20%

PPC ads: 30%

Email marketing: 50%

U-Shaped Attribution

The U-Shaped Attribution model places emphasis on the first and last touchpoints over the rest.  

When using this model, the premise is that the first touchpoint through which the customer got to know about your product and the last touchpoint which ultimately helped to convert should be given maximum credit.

It credits the first touchpoint with 40% and the last touchpoint with 40% while distributing the remaining 20% across the other touchpoints that the customer interacted with before purchase.

Example of U-Shaped Attribution

In the same example as above, when using the U-Shaped Attribution, this is how your credit looks:

Podcast: 40%

PPC ads: 20%

Email Marketing: 40%

Custom Attribution Model

The Custom Attribution Model is an advanced marketing attribution model where you use data science to build an algorithmic system that uses your customer data to accurately understand how much credit should be given to each touchpoint.

This undoubtedly the most difficult model to build and maintain but at the same time gives the most accurate data on which marketing channels have had what impact on your customer journey.


Marketing Attribution is one of the most important aspects in the role of a marketing leader - when choosing a model for your company, ensure that you have all the relevant data points needed to make an accurate, informed decision. 

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