Marketing Attribution: What is it and Which Attribution is Best for Your Business

Marketing Attribution: What is it and Which Attribution is Best for Your Business

Trapica Content Team

Marketing Guides
5 min read
May 3, 2021

Consumers are no longer all discoverable in one place. We now have a fragmented market because the average customer uses no less than ten different channels to communicate with a company. As a business, you should always look for ways to boost your marketing strategy in order to:

  • Stay ahead of the competition
  • Make the most of your marketing budget

Recently, more businesses have started using attribution, which we will discuss in this guide.

What’s Marketing Attribution?

Marketing attribution defines the ways that marketers determine ROI or value with specific channels. Attribution looks at how new customers heard of your brand. One may have clicked on an ad, and another may have found your website through a social media post.

As we mentioned above, the average customer can use up to ten channels when communicating with a company. Various messages and multiple channels can be at the root of a customer’s purchase. Which channel results in the most sales? This is what we’re trying to determine with marketing attribution.

In a perfect world, we would have the opportunity to interview each customer after they make a purchase. We would ask how they first heard of the brand and which channels were most influential when making their decision. Since this is an impossible goal, we need to discover the best touchpoints ourselves; there are a variety of attribution models that can assist.

Types of Attribution (Best Models)

Over time, various models have been introduced in this field. They can be broken down as follows:

1. Single-Source Marketing Attribution

As the name suggests, the idea with this model is to assign credit to one single source. There are two main types of single-source marketing attribution:

  • First-Touch Attribution - With this model, it doesn’t matter how many channels a customer interacts with along the purchasing journey; the very first touchpoint will get the credit. Perhaps the easiest model to implement, the initial source is tagged and then attributed upon conversion. The problem with this model is that the first touchpoint doesn’t always have the greatest impact on the customer.
  • Last-Touch Attribution - As you’ve probably guessed, this second model gives all the credit to the last touchpoint before the sale. It is simple to implement with a CRM or marketing automation platform. In much the same way we saw with first-touch attribution, last-touch attribution completely ignores channels that may have had a huge impact on the sale.

2. Multi-Source Marketing Attribution

Sometimes shortened to MTA, a multi-touch attribution model gives credit to several contributing channels. MTA accounts will follow the whole customer journey, which means that every touchpoint gets recognized. This could include a social media post, ads and/or newsletters.  While some models allot credit based on impact, others will give credit equally. Even if someone ignored a newsletter and made a decision based on an ad, both touchpoints receive equal credit.

Different types of multi-source marketing attribution include:

  • Time Decay - The time decay attribution model is useful when you have a long sales cycle. More weight is placed on the touchpoints at the end of the cycle rather than the beginning.  If someone takes weeks to convert after the first touchpoints, you can assume that they weren’t impactful. Therefore, the time decay model gives more weight to the recent touchpoints while neglecting the earlier ones.
  • Linear - A simpler approach, the linear model gives equal credit to all touchpoints. This may be easy to implement but no matter how the touchpoints perform, both get an equal score. It hides the true performance of your marketing tools.
  • W-Shaped and U-Shaped - While the U-shaped model offers credit for first touch and lead creation, the W-shaped model recognizes both of these plus opportunity creation. U-shaped MTA models give 40% of the credit to the two touchpoints and 20% divided between any other touches in the middle. Meanwhile, W-shaped models give 30% to the three major touchpoints and 10% for any additional.
  • Full Path - Next, the full path model is similar to the W-shaped option but with the final close also considered. The biggest milestones in the customer journey are awarded most of the credit, but some credit is reserved for any touchpoints in between. Businesses often implement this strategy when they want to apportion credit to the follow-up interactions from the sales team.
  • Lead Conversion - If lead generation is your focus, you might be interested in this model. By highlighting where the lead was generated, you can understand the sources that bring in the most customers. The downside is that lead generation and conversion are completely different; the source generating leads may not be impactful enough to generate sales.
  • Custom - Finally, if none of these attribution models match what you need, contact a data scientist and they will design a model for your needs. With this approach, you can attempt to grant credit fairly depending on the role it played in generating the sale. Of course, this method takes time and is more expensive than others on this list.

3. Weighted Multi-Source Attribution

Weighted multi-source attribution models try to determine which interactions in the sales cycle did the most heavy lifting. This model is one of the best options because you can pinpoint the touchpoints with the biggest impact on sales.

Which Should You Choose?

With so many options, you might be wondering which attribution model is best for your business. In the time ahead, you can do some trial and error to see which provides the most value.

Remember, the touchpoints that get credit will normally receive a larger slice of the marketing budget to keep performance high. If you aren’t comfortable risking this on one touchpoint, perhaps you would be better off with a multi-source attribution model.

Benefits of Attribution

Why should you use attribution modeling in the first place? Here are some of the main benefits.

More Knowledge

Firstly, attribution allows businesses to learn more about their customers and the journey they go through before purchasing a product. Over time, you’ll get insights into campaign performance and be able to make more accurate decisions regarding channels. By calculating ROI, you’ll know where to spend your budget.

Solve Issues

With more information, you can find solutions to the problems that your business and your customers face.

Customer Understanding

We mustn’t forget, attribution models encourage businesses to learn the most valuable touchpoints. While one touchpoint will be at the forefront with lots of engagement, others will hardly gain attention at all. Learning the touchpoints with the most engagement can inform audience targeting and buyer personas.

We’ve seen models that determine the CLV influence of each touchpoint—in other words, how likely a touchpoint is to generate a long-term customer as opposed to just a single sale. With this information, you know where to spend with retention and acquisition programs.

Strategy Optimization

Finally, all this information will enable you to optimize each element of your strategy so it is effective at every stage.


Attribution can boost your marketing strategy, but only if you choose the right model and pay attention to the results. Multi-channel strategy is a major key to marketing success. We hope you will consider implementing it after reading this guide!

Marketing Guides
5 min read
May 3, 2021