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What is data-driven attribution?

Article originally published in July 2023 by Stuart Brameld. Most recent update in February 2024.

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Definition of data-driven attribution

Data-driven attribution is a method used by marketers to understand the value of each customer touchpoint. It helps in identifying which strategies are contributing to a goal conversion. This method uses actual data from your marketing campaigns to assign credit to each interaction a customer has with your brand before making a purchase.

For example, if a customer sees an online ad, then receives an email, and finally makes a purchase after clicking on a social media post, data-driven attribution would help you understand how much each of these touchpoints contributed to the final sale. This way, marketers can optimise their strategies and allocate resources more effectively.

An example of data-driven attribution

Here is an example of how it works:

Growth Method, a SaaS company, uses data-driven attribution to understand their customer journey. They track a customer’s interactions across multiple channels before a purchase is made. For instance, a customer might first discover Growth Method through a Google search, then click on a Facebook ad, read a blog post on the company’s website, and finally sign up for a free trial after receiving an email.

By using data-driven attribution, Growth Method assigns credit to each of these touchpoints. They find that 40% of their customers first discover them through Google search, 30% click on a Facebook ad, 20% read a blog post, and 10% sign up after receiving an email. This data helps Growth Method understand which channels are most effective in driving conversions and where they should focus their marketing efforts.

How does data-driven attribution work?

Data-driven attribution works by using advanced statistical algorithms and machine learning to analyze a multitude of data points and touchpoints in a customer’s journey. It assigns credit to different marketing channels and campaigns that contributed to a conversion or sale. This allows marketers to understand which strategies are most effective and optimize their marketing efforts accordingly. It takes into account all online and offline interactions, providing a holistic view of the customer journey. This model is adaptive and changes based on new data, ensuring the most accurate and up-to-date insights for marketers.

Expert opinions and perspectives

Here are how some of the world’s best marketing and growth professionals, and companies, think about data-driven attribution.

  • “Rules-based attribution models assign value to each advertising touchpoint based on predefined rules. These models don’t provide the flexibility needed to adapt to evolving consumer journeys. That’s why we made data-driven attribution the default attribution model in Google Ads and Google Analytics 4.” – https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/13427716
  • “Unlike other models, data-driven attribution gives you more accurate results by analyzing all of the relevant data about the marketing moments that led up to a conversion. Data-driven attribution in Google Ads takes multiple signals into account, including the ad format and the time between an ad interaction and the conversion.” – https://blog.google/products/ads-commerce/data-driven-attribution-new-default/
  • Data-driven attribution is different from the other attribution models because it uses your conversion data to calculate the actual contribution of each ad interaction across the conversion path. Each data-driven model is specific to each advertiser. – https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/6394265

Questions to ask yourself

As a modern growth marketing or agile marketing professional, ask yourself the following questions with regard to data-driven attribution:

  1. Am I effectively using data to understand my customer’s journey?
  2. How can I improve my marketing strategies based on the data-driven attribution insights?
  3. Am I correctly attributing conversions to the right marketing channels?
  4. How can I use data-driven attribution to optimise my marketing budget?
  5. What changes should I make to my marketing campaigns based on the data-driven attribution results?

Here are some related articles and further reading you may find helpful.

Additional reading

Here are some related articles and further reading around data-driven attribution that you may find helpful.

  1. “Data-driven attribution: What it is and why it matters” – Think with Google
  2. “Data-driven attribution models” – Smart Insights
  3. “Data-driven attribution: What is it and why does it matter?” – Econsultancy
  4. “A Beginner’s Guide to Data-Driven Attribution in Digital Marketing” – Search Engine Journal
  5. “Why data-driven attribution is the future of marketing” – Marketing Week

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