How Analytics Can Help Marketers Get a Better Sense of Customer Engagement

Analytics solutions and digital ad providers are looking for ways to help marketers get a better sense of customer engagement.

The one aspect about history is that technology will always change, sometimes in ways unexpected. That tenet holds true for attribution analysis in marketing.

Marketers have historically attributed the last customer online action as the contributor to a conversion. But customer experience influences, along with the ability to measure those influences, has expanded well beyond a computer screen at home. Analytics solution and digital ad providers are looking for ways to let marketers make their adjustments to the expansion and gain a better sense of customer engagement and a superior campaign ROI.

In July, for example, Google eliminated the last click attribution as a default setting from Google Ads. Prior to that, Google removed the last click attribution default in Google Analytics reports. The new reporting setting represents an acknowledgement that last click is no longer an accurate choice for understanding the customer journey. The alterations appear subtle from an analyst’s perspective, but the changes represent Google’s appreciation of the significant evolution customer journey measurement has undergone.

Looking at the Basics of Attribution

Let’s cover the basics on attribution. Attribution is the assigning of a conversion to different interactions a customer has with digital marketing media. The interactions are meant to encourage the customer to completing a conversion, which can be an online purchase, downloading an app or registering for an event. An attribution model is developed from these interactions — the model can be a set of rules to support the aforementioned assumptions or an algorithm that determines conversion credit based on data related to the touchpoints on conversion paths. 

There are several attribution models. Marketers turn to one of the following in making analytic assumptions to describe campaign performance.

Last Interaction attribution assigns 100% of the credit for the conversion to the channel from which the last interaction before the conversion occurred.

The credit is assigned this way. Let’s say marketing for a new product used campaigns with digital ads, paid Facebook posts, Twitter ads, YouTube videos and email as channels, each with content tagged in analytics. A review of the analytic reports shows that email received the most conversions — email seemed important, so email gets the conversion credit. But it’s possible that email was a facilitator for some conversions, not the entire cause of it. Assigning email with all the conversion credit completely ignores touchpoints in the other channels that were as likely an influence on the recipient’s decision to click on the conversion link. The ads or YouTube videos could have been seen as a reminder of the offer. 

The other side of the last interaction coin is first interaction attribution. First interaction attribution assigns 100% of the conversion credit to the channel in which the first interaction before conversion occurred. Both last and first interactions limit the measurement dynamics of customer behavior to surface-level media.

first interaction

More channels create the need for more model choices that can get beyond the surface-level media. One of those models is linear attribution. Linear attribution assigns each touchpoint equal conversion credit. In our simple example’s context, the ads, YouTube videos and email channels would receive 33% of the conversion credit.


Another is time decay attribution. Time decay attribution credits touchpoints according to timing. Time decay attribution is based on exponential decay, a consistent reduction rate of value over a period of time, to favor touchpoints that occurred closest to the time of the sale. Touchpoints further away from the time of the conversion receive less credit. In our example, ads that trigger a conversion immediately after would be credited as influential touchpoints.

time decay


All analytic tools incorporate variations of these attribution models in their reporting features. Google Analytics, for example, has a beta feature that applies these models in its reports. Thus, users can select the type of attribution model that best matches their measurement needs. GA4 distributes attribution credit in two formats: rules-based models and a data-driven model. The rules-based model is a selection of the aforementioned models plus a position model that combines first click/last click, and linear in a 40/40/20 split. The data-driven model relies on an algorithmic review of the data to determine the attribution credit.

An interesting note in the GA4 developer pages is that direct visits are excluded from all its attribution models “unless the path to conversion consists entirely of direct visit(s).” That is notable since many analysts divide last click attribution as with or without direct visits. Direct visits are visits to your website domain direct — the customer either bookmarked the URL or entered the domain in their browser. 

Related Article: The Evolution of Web Analytics

Attribution’s Online History

The general emphasis on last click comes from the digital era where people conducted online purchases from their desktop at home. When someone clicked on a website, marketers assumed that the metrics reflected customers at home. So, their web page views and sessions represented their intention to purchase. This viewpoint colored how marketers view a purchase button click and associated marketing media.

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