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Marketing Attribution: What It Is & How To Report It

Marketing Attribution Model
Table of Contents
Estimated Reading: 11 minutes
Post Author: Giuseppe Iafulli
Reviewed By: Cory Anderson

In today’s digitally-dominated landscape, it is clear that robust marketing attribution strategies are absolutely crucial for sustained long-term success. Without marketing attribution reporting, marketers would find themselves spending hours calculating figures, sifting through disparate data sources, or waiting for critical assistance from a marketing operations resource or a dedicated data team.

However, what precisely does attribution in marketing entail? How can you incorporate it into your marketing plan to increase its effectiveness? If these questions pique your interest, do continue reading and we will give you all the answers.

What is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing attribution is the practice of evaluating the marketing touchpoints a consumer encounters on their path to purchase. Its purpose is to help sales teams and marketers understand how their efforts contributed to a certain outcome, such as a sale or purchase.

Several marketing metrics are utilised to determine which particular channels and specific messaging effectively motivate potential customers to make a purchase. These sophisticated models meticulously consider the marketing funnel’s various touch points and how each distinctively affects customer behaviour and conversions, thereby offering invaluable insights into the customer journey.

Understanding Different Marketing Attribution Models

Marketing attribution models are frameworks that allow businesses to determine the value of each customer interaction in their marketing and sales processes. By understanding and implementing the right attribution model, companies can gain insights into how to allocate their marketing resources effectively. There are many attribution models, and in this paragraph, we will be discussing the most important ones:

First Touch Marketing Attribution model

First Touch Marketing Attribution model

The First Touch Marketing Attribution model assigns full credit to the very first interaction a customer had with your brand. This could be anything from clicking on a paid ad, landing on your website through a search engine, or engaging with a social media post. The primary advantage of this model is its simplicity and its focus on identifying which channels are most effective at generating initial awareness.


  • Easy to implement and understand.
  • Highlights the importance of top-of-funnel marketing efforts.


  • Oversimplifies the customer journey by ignoring subsequent interactions.
  • May not accurately reflect the complexity of longer sales cycles.

Last Touch Marketing Attribution Model

Last Touch Marketing Attribution Model

Conversely, the Last Touch Marketing Attribution model gives all the credit to the final touchpoint before a conversion or sale. This could be a clicked email link, a last-minute ad, or a direct website visit. It’s particularly popular because it’s straightforward and highlights the immediate drivers of conversion.


  • Simple and straightforward to track.
  • Emphasizes the importance of closing channels in the sales process.


  • Ignores the cumulative effect of all previous marketing efforts.
  • May undervalue the importance of early-stage customer interactions.

Related Post: Last Click Attribution: What It Is & How To Use It

Linear  Marketing Attribution Model

Linear  Marketing Attribution Model

Linear Attribution is a type of multi-touch attribution model that distributes credit equally across all touchpoints in the customer journey. This model is particularly useful for businesses that want to acknowledge the cumulative effect of all marketing efforts, rather than just the first or last interaction.


  • Simplicity: Easy to understand and implement, providing a clear, straightforward look at the customer journey.
  • Equality: Treats all touchpoints equally, ensuring that no single interaction is overvalued or undervalued.
  • Comprehensive View: Encourages a holistic view of the marketing strategy by acknowledging the contribution of all touchpoints.


  • Lack of Nuance: May not accurately reflect the true influence of each touchpoint, as not all interactions are equally impactful.
  • Overgeneralization: Can lead to spreading credit too thinly, especially in complex customer journeys with many touchpoints.
  • Ineffectiveness for Complex Sales: Not ideal for long or complex sales cycles where certain touchpoints may have significantly more influence.

Time Decay Marketing Attribution model

Time Decay Marketing Attribution model

Time Decay Attribution gives more credit to touchpoints that occur closer in time to the conversion or sale. It’s based on the principle that the closer an interaction is to the final decision, the more influence it likely had on the customer’s decision.


  • Recency Focus: Reflects the increased influence of touchpoints closer to the conversion, aligning with many buying behaviors.
  • Better for Long Sales Cycles: More accurately attributes credit in longer sales cycles where the final interactions may be decisive.
  • Dynamic Attribution: Adjusts credit based on the timing of interactions, offering a more nuanced view than simpler models.


  • Undervalues Early Touchpoints: May significantly undervalue the initial awareness and consideration phases in the customer journey.
  • Complexity: More complex to implement and understand compared to models like linear attribution.
  • Assumption Bias: Assumes the most recent interactions are the most valuable, which may not always be the case.

Position Based Marketing Attribution Model

Position Based Marketing Attribution Model

The Position Based Marketing Attribution Model, also known as the U-Shaped Attribution Model, is a type of multi-touch attribution that gives different weight to various touchpoints in the customer journey. It recognizes that certain interactions, specifically the first and last touches, might have more significant influence on the customer’s decision to convert or make a purchase.


  • Balanced Approach: Gives credit to both the first and last interactions, as well as distributing some credit to the middle interactions, offering a balanced view.
  • Flexibility: Allows businesses to adjust the weight given to the first, middle, and last interactions based on their unique sales cycle and customer journey.
  • Reflective of Customer Journey: Acknowledges the importance of the initial discovery and the final decision-making phases.


  • Complexity: More complex to implement than single-touch models, requiring a more sophisticated understanding of the customer journey.
  • Arbitrary Weighting: The decision on how much weight to assign to each position can be somewhat arbitrary and may not reflect the actual influence of each touchpoint.
  • May Not Fit All Businesses: The model assumes that the first and last interactions are most important, which may not hold true for all types of purchases or customer behaviors.

Custom Marketing Attribution Model

Custom Marketing Attribution Model

A Custom Marketing Attribution Model, as the name suggests, is a tailored approach to attribution that is specifically designed to fit the unique needs, goals, and customer journey of an individual business. Unlike the standard models like First Touch, Last Touch, Linear, Time Decay, or Position Based, which have predefined rules for assigning credit, a custom model allows organizations to define their own rules and assign credit to touchpoints based on their understanding of what drives conversions in their specific context.


  • Tailored Approach: It’s specifically designed to align with the business’s unique marketing strategies, customer behaviors, and goals.
  • Flexibility: Businesses can adjust the model as needed when they introduce new marketing channels or as they learn more about what drives conversions.
  • Precision: Potentially offers a more accurate understanding of ROI for marketing efforts by closely aligning the attribution with actual customer behavior and business operations.


  • Complexity: Creating and maintaining a custom model requires significant expertise in data analysis and may require advanced analytics tools.
  • Resource-Intensive: It can be more time-consuming and costly to develop and implement compared to using a standard model.
  • Continuous Refinement: As the market, customer behavior, and business strategies change, the model will need to be regularly updated and refined, which can be an ongoing challenge.

Each of these models offers a different way to view and value customer interactions, and the best choice depends on the specific business context, customer journey, and marketing goals. It’s also common for businesses to evolve their attribution model as they grow and as their understanding of the customer journey deepens.

Setting Up Marketing Attribution

Implementing a marketing attribution system is a strategic move that can significantly enhance your understanding of marketing effectiveness and optimize your investment. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the steps to set up an effective marketing attribution system:

Step 1: Define Your Goals

Clarify Objectives: Understand what you want to achieve with attribution. Are you looking to identify the most effective channels, understand customer behavior, or optimize your marketing spend?

Set KPIs: Establish clear, measurable goals that will help you assess the success of your attribution efforts. This might include metrics like conversion rate, cost per acquisition, or return on ad spend.

Step 2: Compile Information

Gather Data: Collect data from all the marketing channels you use, including digital (like PPC, SEO, email, social media) and offline channels (like events or print ads).

Ensure Quality: Make sure the data is accurate, comprehensive, and consistent across channels. This might involve cleaning data or setting up proper tracking mechanisms.

Step 3: Choose an Attribution Model

Understand Models: Familiarise yourself with different attribution models and how they might serve your specific goals.

Select Appropriately: Choose a model that aligns with your business objectives and customer journey. Consider starting with a simpler model if you’re new to attribution and then evolve as needed.

Step 4: Choose Monitoring Tools

Research Tools: Look into different attribution and analytics tools that can capture and analyze data across various channels.

Implement Technology: Choose a tool or set of tools that fit your needs, budget, and technical capacity. Ensure it can integrate with your existing systems and data sources.

Step 5: Analyse and Interpret

Dive into Data: Regularly review the data collected to understand the performance of different marketing efforts.

Look for Insights: Identify which channels and tactics are driving value. Understand the customer journey and pinpoint where customers are dropping off or converting.

Step 6: Modify and Enhance

Iterate: Marketing attribution is not a one-time task. Continuously refine your approach based on new data, changing business goals, or shifts in the market.

Stay Agile: Be prepared to switch models or strategies as you learn more about what works and what doesn’t. Keep testing and learning to improve accuracy and effectiveness.

Choosing the Right Attribution Model for Your Business

Choosing the Right Attribution Model for Your Business

When selecting the most suitable attribution model for your company, it’s crucial to conduct thorough research and consider various aspects of your marketing strategy and business objectives. Here are some key questions to guide your decision-making process:

Understanding Your Business and Customers

  • What is the length and complexity of your sales cycle?

Shorter cycles might benefit from simpler models, while longer cycles may need more nuanced multi-touch models.

  • Who is your target audience, and how do they typically engage with your brand?

Understanding the customer journey and preferred channels is crucial for selecting an attribution model that reflects real customer behavior.

  • What are your key marketing channels, and how do they interact?

Knowing the interplay between various channels helps in understanding how different models might attribute credit.

Marketing Goals and Objectives

What are your primary marketing objectives?

Are you focusing on brand awareness, lead generation, customer retention, or something else? Different goals might require different attribution approaches.

Which metrics are most important to your business?

  • Determine which KPIs (e.g., ROI, conversion rate, customer lifetime value) you’ll use to measure success and how they might be influenced by different attribution models.

Technical and Analytical Considerations

What kind of data do you have access to, and how reliable is it?

  • The quality and comprehensiveness of your data can limit or expand your options for attribution modeling.

Do you have the tools and expertise needed to implement and manage your chosen attribution model?

  • Consider whether you have or can acquire the necessary technology and skills to effectively implement and analyze data from the model.

By answering these questions, you can gain a deeper understanding of your business’s unique needs and how different attribution models might meet those needs. This process will help you select a marketing attribution reporting strategy that aligns with your objectives, customer behavior, and available resources, ultimately leading to more informed and effective marketing decisions.

Related Post: What Is  Attribution Model In Marketing?

Reporting Marketing Attribution

To effectively report on marketing attribution, focusing on key metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is crucial. These metrics provide insights into the effectiveness and efficiency of marketing efforts. Here are some of the essential metrics and KPIs:

  • Conversion Rate: Determines the proportion of users who do a desired activity, providing insight into the success of particular initiatives.
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): Aids in comprehending the expense of bringing on a new client, which is essential for calculating the return on investment.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Provides information on long-term profitability by estimating the entire value a client will likely bring over their lifetime.
  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): Determines the amount of money made for each dollar spent on advertising, providing a clear indicator of the success of a campaign.
  • Metrics Specific to a Channel: Monitors performance through several channels (email, PPC, and social media) to determine each person’s unique contribution.

Creating Effective and Insightful Attribution Reports

Creating effective attribution reports involves several critical steps that ensure the reports are not only accurate but also actionable. Here are the steps to create efficient attribution reports:

  • Gathering of Data: Compile detailed data from all marketing channels to guarantee a thorough understanding of the marketing landscape.
  • Integration of Data: Accurate attribution requires the creation of a cohesive view through the integration of data from multiple sources.
  • Selecting Appropriate Attribution Model: Choose an attribution model (last-click, linear, time-decay, etc.) based on how well it fits your customer journey and company objectives.
  • Reporting and Visualisation: Utilise data visualisation tools to showcase important findings and trends in an approachable fashion.
  • Ongoing Evaluation: Update and evaluate reports often to monitor performance over time and make necessary strategy adjustments.

Effective marketing attribution reporting is crucial for understanding the impact of marketing efforts and for making informed decisions. By focusing on essential metrics and KPIs and following a structured process for creating reports, businesses can gain valuable insights into their marketing performance. This, in turn, allows for the optimization of strategies and resources, leading to improved ROI and overall business growth.

Best Practices in Marketing Attribution

Best Practices in Marketing Attribution

After settling on an attribution model, the next step is implementing it. Given the breadth and depth of this type of analysis, it is prudent to bear in mind the following guidelines.

Omnichannel Approach:

Omnichannel, also known as omni-channel, focuses on integrating various sales, marketing, and customer support channels to offer a unified and seamless brand experience to customers, irrespective of their chosen platform. This strategy ensures that whether a customer is making purchases online using a desktop or mobile device, or shopping in a physical store, they encounter a well-coordinated and consistent brand interaction.

CRM Considerations:

Marketing functions synergistically with CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. CRM systems offer marketers powerful tools to design, test, track, and refine their campaigns. By leveraging the data gathered through the CRM, marketers can develop targeted campaigns and then experiment with different components to identify the most effective strategies. This data-driven approach enables a more personalized and effective marketing effort, as the CRM insights help in understanding customer preferences, behaviors, and feedback, leading to more tailored and successful marketing initiatives.

Overcoming Obstacles in Multi-Channel Attribution

Navigating the complexities of multi-channel attribution requires a strategic approach tailored to address its unique challenges effectively:

  • Breakdown of Data Silos: If you want to keep data silos from distorting attribution, you should integrate data from all channels.
  • Individualised Models for Attribution: Tailor attribution models to align with each channel’s unique dynamics and your organisation’s goals.
  • Overcoming Data Duplication: When interacting with customers across many channels, it’s important to find a way to deal with data overlaps.
  • Regular Evaluation of Channels: To comprehend the function and effect of each channel on the customer journey, it is necessary to assess its performance routinely.
  • Security and Lawfulness: While gathering and analysing data, stay up-to-date on privacy regulations to maintain compliance.

Using Kleene’s Decision Intelligence Platform

In today’s ultra-competitive business environment, staying competitive requires a steady mix of up-to-date data, cutting-edge tools, and the right mindset. As time progresses, maximising Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) will become increasingly complicated, but utilising the right tools can help you make informed decisions help you unify data from many departments into one accurate single source of truth, it offers powerful analytics tools, and facilitates better decision-making with the help of recommendations powered by artificial intelligence.

Kleene enables marketers to measure and prove the incremental impact of every channel, both online and offline, predict budget investment impact and test different allocation scenarios using advanced AI attributions, measure the impact of online and offline campaigns on ROI and get better insights with all data taken into account. We combine Multi-Touch Attribution with Media Mix Modeling to attribute all your marketing activities (online/offline) to the right orders, moving beyond last-click attribution. It helps you gain a holistic perspective of your campaign’s performance with a rich, actionable dashboard showing impressions, clicks, CTR, CPC, ROAS, and CAC across all your marketing channels and attribution methods

With Kleene’s Decision Intelligence Platform, your organisation can achieve more than survival—it can thrive thanks to smarter, data-informed decision-making.

Is data-driven decision-making something you’re prepared to implement in your retail business? Contact a Kleene expert now to learn more about how our Decision Intelligence Platform can meet your company’s specific demands and help you get an edge in the market. Data analysis is only part of the equation; guiding your company to succeed is the real deal.


1. What is an example of marketing attribution?

Attributing a percentage of a sale’s credit to each touchpoint along a customer’s journey, from clicking on a social media ad to engaging with an email newsletter to making a final purchase on a website, is one example of marketing attribution in action.

2. What is a marketing attribution tool?

To better understand the efficacy of each marketing campaign, firms can use marketing attribution tools, which are software solutions that monitor and analyse the contribution of various marketing channels and touchpoints to driving customer conversions.

3. How is marketing attribution calculated?

Multiple methods determine marketing attribution, each impacting the conversion process. These models include first-click, last-click, linear, time-decay, and algorithmic attribution.

4. How do marketers track attribution?

To keep tabs on how each touchpoint influences a consumer’s choice to buy or take action, marketers use analytics and attribution tools to keep tabs on customer interactions across different channels.

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