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What is a marketing attribution model and how to measure offline events

Today’s marketing landscape is more distributed than ever, and the customer journey is made of many steps that cross between both the online and offline world. Companies and customers interact over dozens of different channels, such as email, phone, social media, and in-store interactions, to name a few.

Companies are expected to be available at all times and on all sites: 79% of shoppers used their smartphone to make a purchase in the last six months, and a staggering 40% of them won’t do business with a company at all if they can’t use their preferred channels.

The challenge is that the customer journey is often complex, nonlinear, and scattered across several touchpoints. How can companies keep track of these fragmented journeys and offer their customers a seamless experience?

Some companies are trying to leverage a marketing attribution model to track each step of the consumer journey. A survey among over 4,100 marketing leaders worldwide from Salesforce showed that 41% of organizations measure ROI with a marketing attribution model, although many still prefer more traditional methods.


Source: Salesforce

But what is an attribution model, and how can companies improve their performance and user experience by using one?

What is an attribution model?

An attribution model is a systematic approach to effectively measure all the touchpoints on the consumer journey, whether they happen online, offline, or off-site. The goal of a multi-touch attribution model is to integrate each signal to better assess which channel drives most results and ultimately optimize a business’s marketing performances.

Traditional models to track conversions often attribute the entire value of a conversion (e.g., sales, live demo) to a single event, but as said earlier, many other steps are fundamental to the conversion.

What makes the adoption of a multi-touch attribution model valuable for companies is the ability to weigh each of the several touchpoints for how much they contribute in the marketing funnel to drive conversions. In other words, an attribution model enables marketers to make strategic decisions based on more accurate data.

What is the marketing attribution model?

A marketing attribution model is a framework specifically for analyzing which touchpoint in a customer’s attribution process deserves the credit for the KPI event.

Essentially, this model allows the marketer to distinguish value between their marketing efforts, allowing them to further evolve their marketing strategies.

Types of multi-touch attribution models

There are different marketing attribution models: some companies assign a value to all touchpoints, some to just selected events, and some to just one.

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The rule-based single-touch attribution model

First interaction attribution model

The rule for the first-touch attribution is simple: The first touch in a customer’s journey is the one that receives 100% of the attribution credit for the KPI event. Marketers most often use this model for measuring their efforts by reaching new customers.

For example, for the sake of this article, let’s say that you purchased a PPC ad on paid search. This touchpoint will receive all the credit going forward, even if it has interacted with other touchpoints along the way.

Last interaction attribution model

Last-touch attribution is exactly like first-touch, but the credit is given to the last touch in a customer’s attribution journey for the KPI event. This model is typically used to establish a baseline for comparing other multi-touch/marketing attribution models.

A good example of this marketing attribution model would be if a customer saw an advertisement for your brand on Facebook and viewed your product on your main site. We could even say that the same customer is familiar with your brand because they’ve seen ads for your product on TV. Despite this, they decided not to buy.

Now, let’s say that after all of that, they went on to see a flyer or a billboard ad for your product, and then made a purchase. Based on the last-touch (or last interaction) attribution model, the last touchpoint – flyer/billboard, will receive the credit.

The rule-based multi-touch attribution model

Linear attribution model

In a linear attribution model, each point in a customer’s attribution is given even credit for the KPI event. This is also known as the linear model. If marketing efforts have a long consideration cycle, this is typically the model marketers go for since it’s very important to reinforce the message multiple times throughout the attribution process.

Position-based model

Also known as the bathtub model or u-shaped model, the position-based model gives higher credit to the first and last touch in a customer’s attribution journey. Although any touch-points along the way are still tracked and credited, this model is often used specifically to give extra favor towards the first and last touch.

Time Decay model

In a time-decay model, the credit percentage slowly builds up over time, leading up to the very last touchpoint. Marketers generally use this model for efforts that have short consideration cycles.

In each of these above multi-touch attribution models, each touchpoint is given equal credit. For example, if your customer sees a Facebook ad, Google ad, a billboard, and a TV commercial, then each touchpoint will be given 25% credit.

Algorithm-based attribution model

Fractional attribution

Using machine learning, Fractional attribution gives partial credit for success metrics to significant marketing touchpoints/dimensions to inform marketing spending allocations in the future.

Incremental attribution

With the incremental attribution model, the lift that advertising spending provides to the conversion rate is measured in increments. Marketers best use this to determine if campaigns, creative projects, and placements are performing well and if they’re worth investing in at all.

How to choose attribution models

Across the board, marketers are held accountable for producing results. To that end, any number of these marketing attribution models listed above can prove to be useful, depending on the desired result.

Ultimately, the best way to determine which multi-touch attribution model is best for you will come down to your goals, expectations, and how you want your marketing efforts to evolve.

Best marketing attribution models based on your needs

In all honesty, the best marketing attribution model is the one that best suits your company’s needs. That being said, there are four points to keep in mind when deciding on the best marketing attribution models for your needs. They are as follows:

Primary objectives – Your main objectives (AKA, what you’re trying to measure) will be a massive deciding factor in marketing attribution models. For example, if your goal is to generate more demand, then the first interaction attribution model (first-touch) is a good choice. Measuring conversions? Then the last interaction attribution model (last touch) might be the one for you. Want to measure attribution throughout the entire funnel? Then the linear attribution model is the best model for you.

Target channel – Depending on your target channel, you may have a few choices for the best marketing attribution models. A good example of this would be if your focus is on SEO as a single channel. If this is the case, then a linear attribution model wouldn’t make sense, as it’s typically multi-touch. In this case, the last interaction attribution model (last touch) would be your best bet.

Touchpoints – The poise and effectiveness of your marketing attribution model depend almost entirely on the number of touchpoints in your sales cycle. If it gets overly complicated, a simple first interaction attribution model (first-touch) or last interaction attribution model (last-touch) would be among the best marketing attribution models you can choose.

Length of the sales cycle – The length of the sales cycle plays a huge role in choosing the best marketing attribution models for your needs. Simply put, you need an attribution model that will stick with you for the entirety of the cycle. There is a limited time that tracking cookies are effective in a first interaction attribution model(first-touch). This means that the time-decay attribution model is going to be your best bet.

How to map offline marketing attribution methods

Attribution tracking can be difficult if you consider that more than 78% of retail still occurs offline. How are you meant to map offline marketing attribution methods?

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Our Offline Conversions Sync tool bridges the gap between your online and offline sales and puts your attribution tracking back on track with ease. Here’s how it works in just five easy steps:

  1. Users watch or click on your Facebook Ads
  2. The same users then go on to purchase your product in an offline setting
  3. LeadsBridge automatically bridges your CRM/POS/Inventory with Facebook
  4. Facebook matches your purchase data with advertising data
  5. Facebook will then report all influenced offline sales to your dashboards

All of this is automated, so there’s no need for any more manual importations or extra headaches. Thanks to our Offline Conversions Sync, users can track offline conversions generated through Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn by automatically syncing their marketing technology stack with the advertising platform.

How to measure marketing attribution

As mentioned above, many marketing attribution models are as simple as giving most if not all the credit for the KPI event to specific touchpoints.

For first/last-touch attribution, it’s measured by simply giving all credit to either the first or last touchpoint. For linear attribution, the credit is divided evenly between all touchpoints.

How to measure the time-decay attribution model

Something like the time-decay model is a little more complex. The time-decay model allocates more value/credit to the touchpoints closest to the conversion. Here’s what that distribution may look like:

  • Clicks on your website for the first time (10%)
  • Signs up for your email newsletter (20%)
  • Attends a webinar that was promoted through the newsletter (30%)
  • Converts after the webinar (40%)

Of course, your percentages may vary, but this is just a rough sketch of what the time decay marketing attribution model can look like.

How to measure the position-based attribution model

As stated just above, this model is also known as the bathtub or u-shaped model because the first and last touchpoints are given more credit for the KPI event. But, both the first and last touchpoints must be given the same credit. Something like this:


-First-touch (35%)

-Middle touchpoint (10%)

-Middle touchpoint (10%)

-Middle touchpoint (10%)

-Last-touch (35)%

As you can see, this model distributes the credit evenly between the first and last touch and evenly again between any points in between, thus providing us with the U/bathtub shape that the alternate names hint at.

Custom attribution models

Custom attribution models are considered an advanced marketing tactic. With any custom marketing attribution model, the marketer in charge is solely responsible for crediting the given touchpoints based on their goals and which analytics are most important to them.

A custom attribution model is the most difficult strategy, but it can yield some impressive results for your attribution tracking needs. Nonetheless, any marketer attempting this strategy will need to be confident in their abilities.

The future of marketing attribution tracking

Because website tracking is dying, many people (marketers included) wonder about the future of marketing attribution tracking.

Since businesses worldwide can no longer track customer’s behaviors on their websites, their ad and retargeting campaigns will be greatly affected. This will limit marketers’ ability to rely on things like Analytics, conversion tracking, and much more.

That being said, businesses will still leverage web cookies to their advantage by turning them into first-party data. Information can be collected by websites about their visitors, leads, and customers by storing all of it as first-party data and then pushing it directly to different publishing platforms.

LeadsBridge covered this topic in full in another article about How to move past cookies with server to server tracking, so be sure to check that out if you’re interested in learning more.

Although the lack of tracking cookies may seem bleak, Facebook has its own solution – Facebook Conversions API. We’ve already gone over everything you need to know about Facebook Conversion API in a previous article, so be sure to check that out. Essentially, instead of relying on third-party cookies to target leads, CAPI uses server-side API, leveraging first-party data instead.

The best part of all of this is that we offer a quick solution to help you connect Facebook CAPI with the rest of your marketing stack. With just a few clicks, you can be all set up, avoiding the reliance on third-party cookies, and focusing on what’s really important for you and your business – attracting and converting leads.

Want to know more? Check out this article on how to setup Facebook Conversions API.

Conclusion and Main Takeaways

Regardless of the marketing attribution model, a multi-touch approach helps marketing managers to assess at granular levels the impact of their efforts by assigning a value to each one or more touchpoints.

By applying the appropriate marketing attribution model, marketers can learn to focus their efforts and evolve accordingly.

As consumers explore new channels and companies evolve their marketing efforts, attribution and attribution tracking will become increasingly important for revenue generation. While each of the marketing attribution models listed today is helpful, the ultimate and most useful strategy will be a tailor-made approach to the needs of your business.

There’s no time to lose! Check out our platform and get started with a trial today and properly track your offline conversions with ease.

Dario Villi