Customers are constantly being barraged with marketing messages, often multiple marketing messages from the same company. So, as a marketer, how do you know which message drove a customer to convert?


Recently, I was looking to buy a new pair of shoes. Let me walk you through my buying process: I had been looking at various big brand department stores that I had visited in the last few weeks, and I was finally in that sweet spot of looking to purchase. But after looking for deals on Amazon, Google Shopping and other popular brand websites, I had still failed to make a purchase. Two days after this online search, I received a text from Payless Shoes offering me a BOGO discount that expired the next day. I instantly googled “payless” and clicked on a “Sales & Clearance” Sitelink in a paid search ad and look through their shoe options. Later that night when I got home I typed, into my browser and ended up buying two pairs of shoes.


What channel gets the credit? Is it the in-store visit I had three weeks prior, the text message, the paid search ad or my direct web traffic? The correct answer is they all get a little bit of credit, but in this case, should the text message get the same amount of credit as the paid search ad?

The issue surrounding marketing attribution is a problem plaguing digital marketers everywhere. Attribution is simply defined as the identification of the events or micro-moments that contribute to a final purchase or action. Simple enough, but what do you do when multiple events lead to that final purchase, as in my case with the shoes?


A lot of digital marketers are currently using last click attribution. This model gives all the credit for a purchase to the final click before the desired action is taken. In the case mentioned above, all the credit (under a last-click attribution model) would go to direct website traffic in Google Analytics, and if we make future marketing and budget decisions based on this data alone, it can completely negate any other channels and micro-moments that led to my purchase. Sadly, there currently isn’t a clear easy answer on how you should be tracking and measuring marketing attribution.


So What Can We Do!?


  • Look at the Model Comparison Tool in Google Analytics

The model comparison tool is a great first step for anyone looking to get an idea of how drastically your conversion data can change when shifting attribution models. I recommend using a date range of the past year and setting the lookback window to 90 days prior to a conversion. Start by comparing “Last Interaction vs. First Interaction” and if you are looking at an e-commerce website, I highly recommend looking at Conversions & Value.

In this hypothetical, let’s use the sample numbers above to say that Payless was tracking purchases using last click attribution. If they had instead shifted the credit to the first click, they could have gain 54.25% more conversions for paid search but saw a 118.69% increase in total conversion value. The revenue that paid search would have earned would have doubled and then some just by shifting credit for the sale around to a different touch point in the purchase cycle. But that doesn’t mean they should instantly change their attribution model to first click. It just shows that thinking about attribution in different ways can shift the impact of your spending.


  • List out what channels you use and think about how they fit into the customer’s journey.

What is the purpose of each of your marketing channels? Are your marketing channels in place to generate demand for your product or service? Social media and display marketing would be good ways to find potential users and generate that demand. Are there already a lot of people already looking for what you offer? Consider using AdWords to make your website show up higher in search results and get those users who actively already looking for your product or service. By taking a moment to break down each time your brand has controls over a micro-moment you can get a better idea of how to better reach these potential customers.


  • Treat your customers like humans instead of numbers on a spreadsheet.

While this seems like a no-brainer, you have to take time to sit back think about how each part of your strategy and messages effect and impact the human beings who drive the data in that spreadsheet or financial statement. Taking a short minute to review the creative or the usability of your landing pages can do wonders for the results of any campaign. The number of needed micro-moments before a consumer makes a purchase decision varies greatly across industries. Thinking about each potential micro-moment and how it appeals to your potential customers can reveal new opportunities before you dive back into the data.


  • Make sure you have the correct tracking set up.

Now that you have an idea of what channels your customers are potentially using, make sure that you are correctly tracking this traffic. In the modern world, we are all bouncing between devices and platforms faster than a 4-year-old on a sugar rush. You must have all the right tools in place so you can best track these users across their various devices and platforms.


The ability to track and model various attribution models has seen incredible advancements in the past years. Last and first click attribution is dying if it’s not already dead and it’s now time to start thinking about what attribution models you are using. In the end, you will find that it can help you better measure the successes of your marketing campaigns and drive better results for your campaigns.

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