What is an Attribution Model?

An attribution model is a framework or set of rules used to determine how credit for sales and conversions is assigned to touchpoints in conversion paths.

Different models (such as last-click or first-click) provide various ways of valuing each channel's contribution to the final conversion.

What are the different types of attribution models?

There are many different types of attribution models that assign credit for conversions in various ways. Here are some of the most common attribution models that marketers and data analysts use:

First-touch attribution: Gives all credit for a customer conversion to the very first interaction that a customer had with the brand. This model is useful for understanding which channels are most effective at generating initial awareness.

Last-touch attribution: Attributes the entire credit for a conversion to the last interaction the customer had with the brand before converting. This model is useful for identifying the final touchpoints that drive conversions.

Single-touch attribution: A broader category that includes both first-touch and last-touch models, assigning full conversion credit to a single point of contact. This model simplifies the measurement of marketing effectiveness but potentially oversimplifies the customer journey.

Multi-touch attribution: Distributes credit for a conversion across multiple touchpoints along the customer journey. This model provides a more nuanced view of how different marketing efforts contribute to conversions.

Linear attribution: A type of multi-touch attribution model that assigns equal credit to all interactions a customer had with the brand throughout their buying journey. This model offers a balanced view of the importance of each touchpoint.

Time-decay attribution: Another form of multi-touch attribution where touchpoints closer in time to the conversion event receive more credit than earlier interactions. This model emphasizes the increasing importance of interactions as a prospect gets closer to conversion.

How to choose an attribution model?

Choosing the right attribution model depends heavily on the nature of your business, the length of your sales cycle, and the complexity of your customer's journey.

For instance, e-commerce businesses often experience short buying cycles, where customers make quick decisions to purchase. In such cases, a last-click attribution model might be the most appropriate, especially for businesses investing heavily in ads where conversions often occur within the same browsing session. This model allows them to directly measure the impact of their final advertising efforts on sales.

On the other hand, businesses with longer sales cycles, such as B2B companies offering high-value products or services, would benefit more from a multi-touch attribution model. These businesses engage customers through a series of touchpoints—like email campaigns, webinars, and content marketing—over a period of time.

A multi-touch model can help them understand how each interaction contributes to nurturing the customer towards a sale, providing insights into how to allocate their marketing budget across different channels effectively.

What is the best attribution model?

As you may have guessed, there is no "best" attribution model. Rather, it's important to select an attribution model that matches your sales cycle, business complexity, and the typical customer journey.