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Why should we care about attribution beyond first and last click?

Published: September 12, 2016

Author: Alyssa Francis

I recently tackled this FAQ in our latest Decision Sciences office hours (which you can watch here). It comes up a ton when I speak with marketers who are accustomed to using simple, one-click attribution models.
I’ll dive into exactly why marketers should consider more advanced attribution models. To recap quickly before we jump in, first-click and last-click attribution are defined below:

  1. Last-click attribution: gives full conversion credit to the channel last touched before converting, ignoring all other touchpoints.
  2. First-click attribution: gives full conversion credit to the first touchpoint in the user’s path, ignoring all other touchpoints.

So why should we care about attribution beyond first and last click?
Understanding the full media mix is becoming increasingly important, and only measuring one click will no longer allow you to understand the full marketing impact of our media spend. The consumer journey and buying landscape has become increasingly complex, and a user’s path to purchase is no longer direct enough to measure success based on one single click or action. There are more ways than ever to reach the consumer, especially with cross device playing an even larger role in purchase and discovery.
Because of all these changes in brand discovery, purchase flows, and the increasing role of cross device, measuring one click does not answer the question of “why.” It’s great to be able to show the amount of sales you are making, but just showing sales doesn’t help you gain insight into why those purchases are or aren’t occurring. Measuring only one action will leave unanswered questions that will directly impact brand growth, and you will not be able to show the true value of all the marketing efforts your brand or company has invested in. Ignoring the rest of the purchase funnel and only paying attention to the top or bottom of the purchase funnel will also lead to inefficiencies and wasted media dollars. If you are investing in mid-funnel media, you should have a system in place to measure the effectiveness of all channels and be able to identify the efficiencies in having all channels work together to drive the consumer to purchase. If a brand wants to continue to grow, it needs to identify those channels that influenced and assisted the conversion event to learn and increase future conversions.
Using more complex attribution models will allow you to identify why the consumer made the purchase, and will allow for more detailed data that better identifies and what drives a user to convert. This in turn enables better decision-making and forming of cohesive strategies. More complex attribution models will help to answer the following questions:

  1. Are there channels driving conversions on their own?
  2. What are the channels that influence or assist conversions?
  3. What channels introduce the consumer into the top of the purchase funnel?
  4. Are there certain channels that work more efficiently together and support each other to drive more conversions?
  5. What is the typical path of a purchaser vs. a non-converter? How long is the purchase cycle from first exposure?
  6. Where can we optimize and what cohesive strategies can we form based on characteristics of purchasers?

To close, if you are using only one touchpoint to measure the effectiveness of your media, you are losing visibility into a massive amount of conversions and insights that will limit brand growth. Using a more advanced attribution model will allow you to measure the relationships between channels and better understand touchpoint trends to gain insights and grow.

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