Last-click Attribution

Say Goodbye to Last-Click Attribution, Hello to the Big Picture

Digital media is set apart from all other media channels largely because of one thing: the ability to measure. The benefits provided by this previously unforeseen ability to really dig into media impact and consumer behavior are endless, but there can be one major pitfall: looking at media and data through too narrow a lens.

What we’re talking about here, specifically, is last-click attribution.

A last-click attribution model attributes full sales credit to the last ad a consumer clicked on before they purchased something on a brand’s site. Outside of the larger limitations it creates around key insights and optimizations, this model is problematic for three specific reasons:

  1. Last-click models no longer match consumer behavior.
  2. Brand awareness media gets next to no credit on a last-click model.
  3. Last-click models typically use outdated measurement platforms.

1. Last-click attribution models no longer match consumer behavior.

A last-click model only assigns sales credit to ads that were clicked on. Given that Facebook has reported that only 10% of platform users actually click on ads, brands are immediately narrowing their view.

Brands are then limited from understanding the behavior and characteristics of the other 90% of the audience they’re targeting. By only looking at how 10% of media is performing, brands are being misled by data that is skewed to a small, “click-y” portion of the audience.

Fun fact: Google is still extremely click-focused. It is a search platform after all, and the Google Display Network only allows advertisers to buy according to cost-per-click. Clicks make a lot more sense for evaluating search ads because consumer behavior matches up (consumers still click on search ads).

2. Brand awareness media gets next to no credit on a last-click attribution model.

Brand awareness media typically serves to prospect new audiences, sparking interest and intent among consumers. From there, interested consumers will visit the brand site, where the brand may then retarget them with more conversion focused messaging across digital channels.

A consumer who has been to a brand’s site has shown intent and is much more likely to actually convert. In the future, this qualified consumer is then much more likely to click on a branded retargeted ad and end up making a purchase.

On a last-click model, all sales credit goes to this retargeting media, and it will superficially appear that brand awareness media is doing nothing to help drive consumers towards a sale (not the case).

Here’s a quick little analogy:

last-click attribution

3. Last-click attribution models use outdated measurement platforms.

Last-click measurement platforms and systems were designed to measure traffic on brands’ sites using cookies and referral links. Referral links break from “http” to “https” environments, as well as “non-app” to “in-app” inventory. Because of this, sales credit is lost.

These measurement systems do not have cross-device measurement capabilities (across desktop, mobile, and in-app inventory). This means that they cannot link the path of a user viewing or clicking on an ad on their mobile phone who eventually ends up making a purchase on their desktop.

Taking the Necessary Steps to See the Big Picture

In order to optimize advertising for maximum success, brands need to view media from multiple different vantage points.

To start, brands can adjust the attribution window on their reported data. Typically, looking at media from a 1-day post-view and 28-day post-click is a widely accepted window that presents the full scope of a campaign. This is all done without assigning too much view-through credit, which could also mislead results.

There are also fractional attribution solutions that specialize in assigning sales credit where credit is due to every digital media touch point within a consumer’s path to conversion. Right now, these solutions have a complex onboarding process and can be expensive, but they have been proven to deliver highly valuable insights, greatly increasing ROI and leading to optimizations that can save brands from wasted advertising dollars.

Facebook is also doing its part to reframe the ways we think about media and advertising, dissolving its Atlas third party measurement system and rolling out a new tool called Advanced Measurement. This tool functions as a more scalable and cost-effective approach to fractional attribution measurement. Over the coming year, this tool will be released to advertisers globally.

With or without these advancements in measurement, though, the only way we can begin to make real progress is to welcome this new era of brand awareness metrics and attribution with an open mind. We must be willing to look at things from new perspectives and focus on the exciting possibilities that lie ahead.


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