Attribution is a term used in advertising and marketing to refer to the process of linking (attributing) an advertising or marketing tactic to a user action, such as purchasing a product.

All advertising and marketing tactics involve creating consumer touchpoints – a chance for consumers to engage with a brand, for example, by watching an ad, seeing a social media post, or reading a blog. Attribution analyses the consumer journey, looking at the various touchpoints the consumer encountered before taking the desired final step. This allows advertising or marketing teams to assess the value of their tactics in generating sales/conversions and to make informed decisions about future campaigns in order to optimise the marketing mix and offer the best return on investment (ROI).

There are a variety of attribution models, from simple single-factor models (such as first-touch and last-touch attribution) to complex multi-source models that account for every touchpoint in the consumer’s journey (such as linear, time decay, and full path). As today’s consumers typically encounter multiple touchpoints, multi-source attribution is commonly carried out using advanced analytics platforms. These platforms aggregate data from across multiple channels and give a ‘weight’ to each touchpoint, assigning a level of credit to each based on how big a role it played in converting the user.