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Marketing Attribution

The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.”  - Tom Fishburne, Chief Marketoonist

While the marketing ecosystem continues to evolve at a dramatic pace, the crux of every business remains unchanged. That is, to improve satisfaction across the customer journey. The art and science of Marketing Attribution exemplify this objective.

With customer analytics coming from multiple channels across multiple devices, finding the exact impact of each interaction on your objectives is tricky. However, getting marketing attribution right provides a bird’s eye view on how well your marketing stack is operating. This MarTech Series primer on marketing attribution looks at the fundamental parts of various attribution models and sets out the approaches, opportunities, and challenges facing digital marketers.

Here you go…

Marketing Attribution: The Core Definition

Marketing Attribution is defined as the process of attributing the source and their outcomes in terms of ROI of conversions across multiple campaigns at different customer touch-points. Before getting started with attribution, marketers need to identify these touch points. Each touch point will have its marketing attribution model. These models determine how the organization endorses lead generated from campaign touch points.

The Marketing Attribution Ladder

MarTech Series Primer: Everything You Wanted to Know About Marketing Attribution

Marketing attribution needs to account for the customer journey from start to end. A single customer may have multiple footprints across campaigns on many devices and platforms. Marketers need to identify each of those interactions to effectively measure ROI in each campaign. To do so, marketers need to familiarize with various elements of the attribution ladder.

Touch Points 

Your brand is a story unfolding across all customer touch points.” – Jonah Sachs, CEO of Free Range Studios

A touch point is your business acting as a direct contact between the customer and the brand that helps build a perception or an opinion about the business. Designed to help customers make a more informed decision about the business, touch points influences the consumer behavior at various levels—pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase. In short, touch points help build a strong brand image in a competitive marketplace by retaining more customers.


Marketing campaigns carry a centralized message delivered through different marketing channels to communicate the idea to customers. Marketing attribution revolves around measuring the success of a campaign by attributing each touch point. Each rung in the marketing attribution ladder is interdependent and hence needs to be benchmarked during credit attribution.

Types of Marketing Attribution Models 

There are many “off the block” attribution models available to the marketers. We are going to stick to the models that are found to deliver maximum ROI-focused results. The 7 marketing attribution models every marketer should be familiar with are:

Online-to-Offline attribution 

What is the extent to which online ads influence offline revenues? 

This is the basic attribution challenge that marketers have to deal with while designing their campaigns. The online impact of the campaign can be measured by utilizing data from smartphones using local GPS, WiFi, and beacons. Mobile wallets and in-app Cloud networks are also part of Online-to-Offline attribution models.

Last Click attribution

Web analytics working on the Last-Click Attribution model credits the “last click” for a conversion. Last Click attribution accounts for all the conversions from the campaign. It is preferred for making immediate useful insights on the mode of conversion happening around on-spot sales.

Last Click attribution

The inconsistency of this model arises from the lack of a source of traffic generation. In most cases, the “Last click” credits lead to “First Click” re-attribution.

First Click attribution

The exact opposite of what happens with the “last click” attribution, “First Click” accounts for the new leads and conversions from the campaign. It credits the exact touch point that introduced the customer to the product for the first time. It works best for single-campaign channels.

First Click attribution

Last Non-Direct Attribution 

In the Last Non-Direct Click model, the channel that customer clicked last before conversion is attributed. For example, Google Analytics uses a model called the Last AdWords Click for PPC attribution that credits the AdWords for the entire sale that occurs prior to the customer interaction across hundreds of channels.

Last Non-Direct Attribution

The days of the first and last click are nearing an obvious end. With the advent of more data-driven time-decay models for marketing attribution, marketers have a better reason to build customized campaigns that assist the customer in making a satisfactory decision anywhere in the journey.

Multi-Touch Attribution

Multi-Touch attribution model empowers the marketer to pick the most relevant touch point out of multiple campaigns based on pre-defined analytics and statistical tools. This model provides enhanced visibility on unique customer engagement with various campaigns.

Multi-Touch Attribution

Attribution could be made based on lead source, time of engagement, location and other custom variables set by the marketer.

Multi-Device Attribution

Also referred to as Cross-device attribution, it is a subset of online marketing attribution. It accredits the impact of one or multiple devices for conversions. Marketers can understand the influence of various devices—smartphone, TV, tablets, desktops, laptops and kiosks, on conversions and how each of these devices should be credited to refine the campaign budgets in the future.

Multi-Device Attribution







Google AdWords is a reliable marketing attribution tool to identify the path of conversion and the touch points along the customer journey. It gives a more a refined picture on how advertising campaigns are performing on different gadgets. The attributes given to multi-device campaigns are specified as break-up between primary device conversion, assisting devices and device paths from desktop to mobile or laptop, or vice versa.

Hybrid Attribution with Time-Delay

This attribution model credits closest touch point that customer takes before making an actionable decision. Referring to customer journey, attribution of a touch point closest to conversion has a higher ROI than the lagging ones.

Hybrid Attribution with Time-Delay

The prefix ‘hybrid’ refers to attribution attached to multiple touch points across multi-device, multichannel campaigns.

Why Customizing Your Entire Marketing Attribution Strategy Makes Sense

The convergence of online marketing, web analytics, and AdTech has introduced a new set of challenges for the marketers. In order to find the most relevant “hook” for lead generation, sales, and promotional ROI, marketers need to be familiar with the concept of customized marketing attribution.

And that’s a good start for marketers who want to design marketing campaigns with touch points across the customer journey. Start attributing credits to various touch points in each campaign, and measure your success rate.

Break down silos for absolute attribution

The silo mindset is a huge barrier for marketers working on multiple campaigns. What can you expect from a customized marketing attribution model?

  • Understanding the marketing funnel driven by customer awareness, desire, interest, action, and preference
  • Gauging the performance of exclusive touch points for different campaigns
  • Evaluating the exact conversion rate of marketing and sales campaigns
  • Finding visitor touch points that are readily available for free across:
  1. Purchase channels
  2. Marketing and advertising channels
  3. Fulfillment channels
  4. Post-purchase channels

Proper marketing attribution should unify the entire marketing effort towards one goal, measured in terms of ROI and effectiveness of each campaign. Attribution maximizes the level of collaboration and incentivizes the importance of analytical data across the organization.

Tightening the marketing technology infrastructure and their budget

According to Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey 2015-2016, MarTech accounts for 33% in the marketing budget, a majority of which is directed at building digital infrastructure. Therefore, leveraging the marketing attribution model can help drive ROI-focused campaigns with accurate online-offline attributions.

How does marketing attribution helps tighten the MarTech infrastructure budget?

Finding the Life Time Value of a Customer

The Life Time Value of a customer is a key parameter to decide the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. Whether the customer is a single-time buyer or a multi-point visitor, marketing attribution helps identify the best platform suitable to extract maximum value from each touchpoint interaction.

Performing versus Non-performing Touch Points

Do you get more response from the Facebook ads than Google ads? Have you tried running them individually and exclusively?

Map the response to understand how they fare against each other. Chances are high that one of them would be less effective than the other.

Touch points are like pins on the navigation map. When orchestrated together, they unify the idea of the marketing campaign as a whole. The touch points may not be effective in delivering the results as stand-alone but their effectiveness can be scaled up. The ROI from cross-platform campaigns can be maximized by removing the non-performing touch points and directing ROI-focused efforts at one or more performing touch points.

Getting the Exact Picture

Marketing attribution accounts for the level of communication between the teams running and analyzing the campaigns across multiple channels. Attribution analytics provides a sharper, clearer picture on how marketing teams optimize the campaigns at different stages of the funnel, guaranteeing a higher conversion rate on a real-time basis.

Getting the Exact Picture

Campaign Budget Estimation

Balancing brand awareness and ROI is a difficult task for any marketer, but attribution gives you the data required to justify how you are spending your resources. Attribution doesn’t just help you prove the impact of your marketing — it helps you to be a better marketer when it comes to budgeting.

Marketing Attribution: Opportunities and Challenges 

Marketers are getting rid of traditional boundaries between paid search, social, display, advertising and offline channels to create multi-channel centralized holistic brand appeal built over a rock-bed of seamless personalization. Geolocation marketing attribution models based on time-decay offer a closer touch point analysis than all other traditional attribution models.

Opportunities in Marketing Attribution 

  • Creating hyper-personalized campaigns to measure customer’s digital footprints
  • Clear distinction between single-touch and multi-touch point attribution
  • Balancing lead volume with lead quality based on defined metrics and marketing goals
  • Optimized marketing campaigns with ROI-focused sales activities aiming longer customer Life Time Value
  • Seamless integration of marketing attribution models with rest of the marketing stacks like CRM, email marketing, and campaigns automation

With opportunities come challenges, and we have identified a few that may hamper attribution metrics.

Challenges in Marketing Attribution 


If you fail to identify all touch points of a campaign, it is not possible to attribute the event appropriately. As it happens with most multi-point attribution events, marketers miss key interactions that lead to conversions. Under-reporting of attributions affect the efficiency of the marketing strategy.


Conversely, marketers may incorrectly attribute a non-consequential event or touch point as a key interaction in the consumer journey leading to over-reporting.

Ambiguous ROI figures

Shooting for the stars? Marketing attribution may not be able to help marketers with ambiguous ROI numbers that fail to match with marketing budgets in the first place. If ROI numbers are not properly established, marketing attribution could prove to be ineffectual.

Marketing attribution is OK. But, what about Sales Attribution! 

Marketing attribution might be projected as the bridge connecting marketing efforts with sales numbers. However, attribution is 100% given to marketing touch points and not sales points. To push marketing attribution, sales attribution is equally important and that’s what marketers have to account for as well.

Maximize Your ROI: Real-time Omnichannel Attribution is the Holy Grail

Marketing attribution is all about figuring out exact ROI from existing campaigns in order to gain the absolute best picture of how multiple touch points, devices, and location affect digital and real-time marketing efforts. In short, “accurate” marketing attribution is the Holy Grail of success in an ever-expanding marketing technology landscape.

Mobile market penetration

23 days in a year – That’s the time an average mobile user spent browsing and interacting with online media since 2013. Convergence of social, mobile, analytics and Big Data has opened up a rather dynamic marketing landscape element for the marketers in recent months. Statistically, the mobile marketing industry is slated to grow from US $28 billion in 2016 to US $98 billion in 2021. This projection reveals that the mobile marketing hype is not a bubble; rather, it’s a big wave every marketer had best learn to surf by 2017.

 Why You Need A Mobile Marketing Strategy?

“The adoption rate of mobile is twice that of the internet, three times that of social media, and 10 times faster than PCs.”

– Emma Crowe, Chief of Client Strategy, Somo

Currently, there are more than 2 billion smartphone users in the world. Since humans are more likely to have a mobile device in their possession than a desktop, it is best for the marketers to start building a mobile marketing strategy.

The future of mobile marketing is now.

CMO spending in 2017 will revolve around mobile-first strategy. Top tech leaders and market researchers acknowledge the growth of mobile as the most business-friendly platform to showcase brand portfolios across user demographies. From designing mobile-first landing pages to providing interactive web content across social media channels, mobile marketing is a dominant force. Even the findings from latest reports on marketing attribution and email marketing support the incentivization of mobile marketing as a big game-changer for digital marketers in the long run.

Mobile market penetration

What do the numbers say about mobile marketing?

On an average, every user looks at the phone 46 times a day. With more than 90% of mobile phone users glued to the screens for most part of the day, mobile marketing is the quintessential activity every marketer should explore in order to churn new ways of engaging audience and maximizing ROI from their marketing campaigns.

Mobile internet ad spending

Marketers are investing heavily on digital ads and Mobile ad spending in 2016 alone has been projected to touch US $50 billion – representing more than a 400% increase from 2013. By 2020, the mobile ad spending will cross $100 billion outbidding TV ad spending. Currently, mobile ads account for nearly 50 % of all digital ad spending globally.

What Are the Various Mobile Marketing Methods?

Mobile marketing ecosystem is in a constant state of flux due to an ever-expanding set of channels of communications. Marketers starting fresh with a mobile marketing strategy can initially focus on the following mobile marketing methods.

Mobile Push Notifications

A push notification is a pop-up message that appears on the mobile screen even when the device is locked or the app is not working currently. It is a direct 1:1 platform for marketers promoting a new product launch or driving users to explore vendor’s marketing channels like social and email.

In-app Messaging

In-app messaging is primed to engage a user with more targeted, purposeful interactive sessions while still accessing an app. It is a faster mode of user engagement generating 8 times more response rate compared to push notification models. In-app mobile marketing model allows marketers to project their most valuable promotional/ transactional content to a loyal set of users who recently showed purchase intent.

Wearable device notifications

Still on the cusp of making it big in the mobile marketing ecosystem, wearable device notification is best described as the ‘silicon in flesh’ model. Heavily inspired to converge with futuristic artificial intelligence capabilities, wearable device notifications perfectly complement the mobile marketing strategies powered by instant analytics on content traffic and user experience.

Mobile Wallets

Factually speaking, mobile wallets hold more disruptive power in the mobile marketing landscape than any other mobile marketing channel. Mobile wallet marketing is the next frontier of digital marketing technology that allows marketers to leverage opportunities across all marketing channels with customized offers and coupons. More than 30% of smartphone users have mobile wallets and most of them are likely to save tickets and offers in addition to making in-app payments.

As far as digitally-driven loyalty programs are concerned, mobile wallet marketing can be tracked, updated and loaded with location-based content.


SMS/MMS retain their place in the mobile marketing strategies owing to their technological singularity. SMS/MMS is one app platform that every smartphone user can access to. To begin with a marketing campaign, marketers can either opt for automated email marketing or automated SMS/MMS marketing targeting the same set of smartphone users. Budget-wise, SMS/MMS marketing is cheaper and more ROI-centric than email.

Mobile App Marketing: Taking Mobile Marketing Beyond Search Engines

Elements mobile experience

As on June 2016, there were 2 million mobile apps in Apple’s App Store and 2.2 million apps on Google Play. By 2020, the mobile apps industry is pegged to generate US$180 billion in revenues via in-app advertising and app store purchases. In 2017, the total number of app downloads is estimated to reach 268.69 billion.

Industry-wise, e-commerce and retail mobile apps secure the highest user engagement with an average of 17.5 session launches per month. Technology, gaming, media and entertainment apps also contribute significantly to the audience engagement with mobile internet usage. As new touchpoints in the customer journey are introduced, new mobile app marketing strategies are needed to adequately boost ROIs from organic and paid search programs.

With the kind of numbers that mobile app marketing holds, marketers can finally move towards developing a single mobile-friendly website rather than working on multiple platforms —social, web and mobile, simultaneously.

In fact, Social + Mobile will be the most relevant marketing channel for marketers beyond the existing search engines. It’s a win-win for both customers and marketers. Not only does it offer customers a reason to interact with the brand without barriers but also empowers marketers to build a mobile-specific relationship based on customer preferences, analytics, recurrent incentives, discounts and content-driven ROI.

Top 5 mobile marketing trends in 2017 expected to drive maximum ROI are

  1. Customized mobile e-mail campaigns
  2. Enhanced UX with click-prompting CTAs
  3. SMS/MMS text clubs
  4. Wearable device notifications and beacons
  5. Mobile video advertising

For marketers, the future of mobile marketing is pretty much the safest thing to build. Flawless video-based ads, enriching messages, personalized email, MMS/SMS with high-scoring social listening engagement—that’s enough to reach out to every mobile user and deliver targeted products with minimum attribution.


A focus on maximizing engagement throughout the customer journey remains the foundational principle of every marketing model. Identifying the life time value of a customer is a steady path to marketing success. Data and analytics have never been as important to marketers as they are today. And conversely, never have they been rendered as obsolete as now, when marketing moves towards building intelligent, real-time, customer engagement platforms. What explains this dichotomy in modern marketing?

Enter Marketing Technology.

IDC future map

Image courtesy: IDC’s The Marketing Software Revolution: Strategies for Buyers and Sellers

Software technology is the quintessential element that drives every business today. Big Data and analytics are churning out mind-boggling volumes of data that are virtually impossible for human marketing teams to process themselves. The amalgamation of technology into digital marketing has enhanced the ability to collect, process, refine and employ meaningful data into various marketing channels with assured ROI.

With the introduction of new marketing technologies (martech), new, more marketable formats and saleable channels based on higher audience engagement and customer retention have developed. With Facebook/Twitter ads or Google’s Paid search results the edifice of the marketing stack has emerged — the old CRM system is no longer enough. Adopting contemporary martech helps build a solid foundation of data + infrastructure over which companies can adapt to the ever-transforming standards of marketing. Improving brand visibility and audience engagement are today increasingly dependent on your ability to better integrate technology into modern marketing channels.

An Unprecedented Opportunity: Unicorns emerge from the Marketing Landscape

The marketing landscape has transformed dramatically since 2010. In fact, it is still a shifting sand scenario for marketers who find it tough to develop plans and strategies for devices, platforms, and channels. There lies an opportunity for unicorns wanting to leap ahead of the competition as martech continues to take a larger share of the technology pie.

In 2016, CMOs spent more on digital martech than print and TV ad combined. According to Gartner 2016-2017 CMO Spend Survey, marketers are spending more on the website, mobile apps and social media than ever. Most start-ups today are open to the idea of building the business on purely digital marketing platforms.

Budget Allocation for Martech in 2016

Gartner CMO spend survey

Image courtesy:  Gartner 2016-2017 CMO Spend Survey

While the traditional marketing models focused on TV, print, banner and radio continue to be the primary medium of advertising and brand campaigning, social media, mobile and video marketing too have grown leaps and bounds in recent years.

The crucial differentiator in digital commerce too is fast becoming the application of martech. Backed by how well the marketers deploy marketing technologies, return on investment will be a crucial factor as far as their effectiveness is concerned.

The Starting Grid: Revamped Modern Marketing Based on Technology

Only 30% of companies today accept the value martech brings. The rest are yet to re-engineer their philosophy. Astute marketers acknowledge that integration of the marketing stack is the key to delivering a sublime customer experience. Marketing technologies can help get over the personality differences between the Chief Revenue Officer, CMO & CIO team by bringing in seamless collaboration across all touch points in the organization.

How does one start to bring about this marriage of sales, marketing, and technology? Marketers can catch up with the marketing leaders by first differentiating which martech tools are relevant to build a customer-centric marketing strategy and focus on erasing traditional customer engagement barriers.

The starting grid of martech in modern marketing looks like this.

IDC map

Image courtesy: IDC’s 2015 Marketing Technology Map

Key martech tools that readily available for adoption are:

  • Monitoring and analytics tools
  • Marketing automation tools
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) tools
  • Tag management tools
  • Data management platforms (DMP)
  • Content delivery networks (CDN)
  • Conversion optimization tools
  • Campaign management tools
  • Email marketing platforms
  • Mobile optimization tools
  • Advertising networks
  • Remarketing solutions
  • Search engine marketing tools

All these marketing tools allow the marketers to take the highest ownership of the customer data. They undeniably enhance 1:1 customer experience across all touch points bolstered by the competitive martech infrastructure.

Technology’s impact on marketing

Marketers are striving hard to catch up with the latest technology trends. Compared to the last decade, businesses have managed to adopt cutting-edge technology within 2-3 years. The trend of building martech infrastructure is now taking an accelerated path, which invariably means that we are going to see faster adoption in coming months and years. It’s the pace of adoption of marketing technologies that has opened up new opportunities in overall business.

How martech trends impact your business

The first impact of martech on the business is how well marketers now need to formulate data strategy. Marketing technologies affect each business differently. However, the visible influence of the changing marketing trends can be seen on how marketing platforms are converging into one. Account-based marketing for B2B marketers is gathering incredible momentum and pace thanks to the impact of social media, mobile and online video advertisements. Devices are getting smarter, and so are customers.

“Overnight the digital age had changed the course of history for our company. Everything that we thought was in our control no longer was. But within a year we had invested in social media and digital experts. Now Starbucks is the number one brand on Facebook.”

            – Howard Schultz, Chairman/CEO, Starbucks

The adoption of marketing technologies depends on the way it will impact the data strategy. The best way to start thinking about your martech stack is by investigating the impact of selective marketing tools on each touch point.

Choose your first set of martech platform directed at improving the visibility of the brand in:

  • Search engine results
  • Social networks (paid and organic)
  • Banner ads
  • Sponsored online retail content
  • Online blog reviews and ratings
  • Online video content (paid and organic)

The proliferation of digital channels is accelerating the impact of martech on business.

Nearly 2.2 billion people have smartphones or tablets. This number is likely to reach 3 billion by 2020 (refer to figure). Marketers can tap into the smartphone user base by using marketing automation tools for smartphone and tablet ad formats. Marketers are getting more and savvier about identifying “micro-moments” – those all-important opportunities to be relevant to the customer.

 Number of Smartphone users worldwide from 2014 to 2020 (in billions)

Smartphone survey

Image courtesy: STATISTA

How martech impacts the customer

Customers are more connected to one another like never before. One thing that connects them all is their vibrant, 24-hour bustling online life. Technology has improved the way customers view their preferred brands and products across different devices and online channels. Marketers are building an emotional bridge with their customers based on omnichannel attribution, which tells them exactly where the customer interacted with the brand.

Technology goes a step ahead in empowering the customer to choose what kind of brand he/she wants to interact with. Customers are more responsive to hyper-personalized products as they typically resonate with their device usage, browsing pattern, brand preferences, mobile app downloads, social interactions, location, and demography.

In short, customers are offered targeted set of products, services, and content directed by micro-level data analysis. Each customer is a king, and the impact of martech is highest on the ones that are connected 24/7 online. Analysis of ad blocking or banner blindness is an example of what makes marketing technology so exciting and in a state of constant flux. With the advent of martech, marketers are challenged to serve more relevant, direct and non-intrusive ads and banners.

Why People Block Online Ads

Online ad survey

Image courtesy: IAB UK/YouGov “Online Ad Blocking”

The Cost of Not Investing in Martech

The magnification of the martech domain is pushing the barriers of collaboration between marketing and sales teams. Without marketing technology, the gap of communication and efforts between the marketers and their sales counterparts will be wider. The immediate effect of missing out on a tech-enabled opportunities in enterprise marketing strategies will be reflected in poor ROIs from customer touch points. Missing out on customer-centric data will lead to premature abandonment of even the most competitive marketing campaigns due to lack of insights and budgeting.

Failing to integrate marketing tech will create ambiguity in fully understanding the maturing of martech, and further disruptions to the marketing model; something no CMO would like to experience going into 2017 and beyond.

Timing and quality of interaction remain the secret of success. As long as marketers know exactly what customers want, enterprises can plan budgets, technology integrations, and deliverables in advance. In addition to maximized ROI, marketers can also brace themselves up against any disruption planned in the future.

Marketing Technology Is Here To Stay

With marketing technology, it’s now or never for the marketers. Rightly so, the effectiveness of technology depends on its compatibility with the business, missions and objectives, team’s technical expertise and the scalability factors. There is no ubiquitous martech toolkit that can solve all marketing challenges right away.

At Martech Series, we believe that digital marketing is still just marketing – the art of creating a compelling narrative around your brand remains as relevant as ever. However, the modern CMO needs to add a solid martech strategy with a focus on reliable marketing data and customer engagement. Beyond that, all indications point toward predictive analytics, AI, and machine learning as the way forward.

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