WTF is Last Touch attribution?

Attribution is arguably one of the most complex topics in marketing. And rightfully so – the customer journey is complicated. In terms of exposure, it’s hard to even fathom – it’s estimated that we see up to 10,000 ads per day. Every impression has an associated cost. Marketers want to know which ones matter and which don’t so they know where to spend their precious budgets and improve the ROI. Attribution is essentially that – assigning a value to one or more touch point to measure their respective value against a conversion.

In the disjointed customer journey – tying each touch point to a single customer is on ongoing challenge. So marketers often give the “last touch” all the credit. The last touch is the marketing channel or tactic that occurred immediately prior to the conversion. Last touch attribution is just a fancy name for the idea that the last marketing channel gets the credit when measuring a return on investment.

Take this example – overly simplified, of course. There are five touch points in this customer’s journey, represented by the dots. The final dot on the right hand side represents the last touch before the conversion. So in this example of last touch attribution, paid search would be credited with the conversion. If we spent $1 on that paid search ad and the conversion yielded $5, we’d have a 5 to 1 ROI.

If you’re thinking to yourself that this seems problematic – it is. We of course spent money on all those other touch points. In last touch attribution, none of them matter when calculating ROI. This means they all become devalued as it relates to driving a conversion. The reality is, they all matter, it’s just easiest to measure the last touch and tie that to a conversion event, so often marketers find themselves using this mediocre model of attribution.

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