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Five Attribution Models for 2014’s Customer Journey
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Five Attribution Models for 2014’s Customer Journey

With data playing an increasing role in shaping performance marketing, advertisers are looking to become savvier with their attribution models to ensure publishers are fairly rewarded for their promotional efforts. This post looks at five attribution models that are typically implemented.


Cost per action is the standard attribution model. Where publishers are paid on the action that has taken place. This could be in terms of a fixed CPA for a purchase (typically seen in telecoms or finance), a percentage of the basket value (retail, travel etc) or a variation on a CPA such as paying for each click (CPC) or a lead to be submitted to an advertiser by filling out a form (CPL). 

Each of the attribution models discussed are based on a form of paying out a CPA, taking into account the involvement of publishers in generating the desired outcome.

Single Click

Single click is the most common form of attribution used by advertisers. Traditionally and still most commonly this is the last click. With affiliate marketing being founded on a last click wins model, it is not surprising that affiliates are experts in converting sales. Single click attribution models could also be focused on rewarding the first click: the click that initiated the sale.

The main benefit of this model is its simplicity, both in terms of rolling out the model and in understanding the requirement for a publisher to get credited with the sale.

When implementing attribution models that take into account more than a single interaction, models can become complicated. This is particularly problematic for cashback sites, where a commission is advertised to members. Where a single publisher is rewarded on a last click basis they know exactly how much commission will be paid for the transaction. If an attribution model is in place that rewards multiple touch points, it is impossible to correctly advertise the cashback paid out to members.


This attribution model rewards based on a desired outcome. It could be navigating a number of pages on an advertiser’s site, watching a video or completing a form. This provides advertisers with the flexibility to reward publishers for performing a required action on a site. House of Fraser has an attribution model in place which rewards publishers for the time a customer spends on the site prior to purchase. They found that customers that spent longer on the site typically had higher average order values. In a sale with two affiliate interactions, if the customer spent 30 minutes on the site after clicking through from the first publisher and then 10 minutes from the second publisher, the first publisher would receive 75% of the commission and the second publisher 25%

Multi Attribution

Multi attribution is a model that has been spoken about for several years. The premise being that with a number of touchpoints involved in any customer journey, each should be rewarded for their contribution. While this seems like a good idea in principal, there are a number of drawbacks to using this as a feasible model. Firstly, a click is an arbitrary measure. It is difficult to suggest how much of an influence it had over any one sale. Is the click that initiates the sale more valuable than the middle click? How about the click that converts the sale?

Additionally, multi attribution came to the fore when it was considered that each sale typically had multiple affiliate touch points. A lot of research carried out has dispelled this as a myth with the majority of sales (80 – 90%) only having one affiliate touch point.

With customer journeys now spanning multiple devices, it is important the cross device piece is in place before we can truly look to attribute correctly. If we are unable to see the complete picture across multiple devices, how can we expect to implement an effective multi attribution model?

Value Attribution

Value attribution looks at additional elements beyond simply the click. As mentioned above, it is difficult to know the quality of the click and which one held the most influence over a transaction. While a number of attribution models look at what occurs prior to the sale (the customer journey and various click paths) what happens post conversion is often ignored.

Value attribution considers what happens after the click. This can include how much the customer is spending, how often they return and their churn rates etc. It also takes into account the involvement in a customer journey and allows publishers to be rewarded for the quality of customers they are driving as well for any influence they may have had earlier in the path to conversion. For example, publishers that typically drive highly valuable customers and are involved in a number of sales that they do not necessarily convert, commission rates can be set to a level that also rewards them for their influence earlier in the path to conversion on the sales they are not rewarded on a last click basis.

Attribution has been a hot topic for a number of years now and we are no closer to a big shift away from a last click attribution model. While there are benefits to each of the models mentioned above, last click is still fit for purpose and is the simplest to implement. While advertisers are looking at better ways to reward publishers based on their role within customer journeys, there is unlikely to be a major shift away from the last click model any time soon. Value attribution keeps with the traditional last click model, yet places an emphasis on the quality of customer delivered as well as reward those publishers that are effective at influencing customer journeys at the top of the sales funnel. This is a model that keeps the simplicity of the last click model, yet takes into account the additional influence of the publisher in the early stages of the customer path to conversion.

Read more about attribution trends in performance marketing. Download the PerformanceIN attribution digital supplement NOW!

Matt Swan

Matt Swan

As a Client Strategist at Digital Window Matt works with advertisers across both Affiliate Window and platforms. The role involves working closely with the account management and business development teams on delivering and optimising affiliate campaigns.

Matt also works on research projects both for individual clients and overall market trends. He has recently undertaken research into the mobile network sector and also investigating the growth of m-commerce within the affiliate channel.

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