How Affiliate Attribution Needs to Change
By Alexandra Forsch, President, Awin US
Sponsored content from our partner Awin
February 24th, 2022
Attribution has been a hot topic in marketing for at least a decade. While some companies have implemented attribution measurement solutions for their various channels, most affiliate programs are still measured using “rules-based” attribution models like first- or last-click. Unfortunately, those simplistic models prevent brands from understanding the total contribution of partners on sales, devalue the contributions of important classes of partners like influencers and mainstream publishers, and misrepresent the value of individual incentive partners like coupons and cashback.
This can’t continue. As long as we rely on one-dimensional models like last-click, we can’t take our place at the brand strategy and resources table with all the other channels. Accurate measurement and attribution helps drive better decisions at both channel and individual partner levels.
Who Wins and Who Loses with Last-Click
Many traditional affiliates base their businesses on maximizing performance with the last-click model. Coupon sites, for example, are designed to deliver messages and offers most relevant to the moments immediately before conversion.
Some publishers have invested heavily in browser extensions that influence purchases once traffic arrives on a brand’s website. While these providers rightly argue that extensions can boost conversions and basket sizes, they also allow the partners to take credit for conversions from traffic they didn’t drive. Unscrupulous partners can game the system, but even highly reputable publishers may get excessive credit with an extension if you use last-click attribution.
In 2022, affiliate is about more than conversion-focused deal sites. Customers often don’t convert solely on a single marketing touchpoint. We must implement more effective ways to attribute sales. Models like last-click are easy to administer but not accurate for measuring a partner’s actual contribution to driving a sale. Accuracy is the key with attribution, and correctly compensating partners maximizes growth.
Some affiliate tech providers have introduced rules-based tools to allocate conversion credit across multiple publishers. For example, awarding ⅓ credit to the first touch, ⅓ across all the intervening touches, and ⅓ to the converting touch. The problem is, more complexity does NOT mean more accuracy. Only by understanding each touch’s value at the individual conversion level can we accurately measure and compensate partners.
Moving to More Accurate Attribution
To be a successful affiliate marketer, you need access to unbiased data on how every touch impacts a purchase. Beyond that, for lasting success as a brand, you need to ensure your digital marketers can access unbiased data to review all touch points across the customer funnel, channeling investment and resources to what’s producing results. You need to look under the hood of attribution models to get it right. Even some costly “multi-channel” attribution solutions apply arbitrary fractional credit rules and base allocations on incomplete third-party cookie data.
Awin is the leader in providing accurate and workable solutions using advanced algorithmic modeling and comprehensive data analysis. We offer SingleView, a tracking and measurement system that precisely assesses impact for every touch – inside and outside affiliate – to attribute revenue and provide insights for more informed budget decisions.
SingleView identifies the extent a marketing touch causes a conversion. In some cases, a single touch is enough to make a sale. But in many other cases, the customer interacts with multiple messages delivered both inside and outside the affiliate channel. These intervening steps are what Google calls “the messy middle,” when each customer follows their own unique path to purchase. No rules-based model can do justice to the messy middle. Further, affiliate channel messages also contribute to conversions credited to other channels. SingleView tracks ALL marketing actions to provide a comprehensive view of channel and partner contributions.
But Does it Matter? Absolutely!
For too long, many affiliate leaders have operated as if all this misattribution will simply “come out in the wash.” The assumption here is that one partner might get too much credit for one interaction but not enough in another, so somehow, it’ll all just work out. Close enough, anyway.
But it just isn’t so. Remember that many traditional affiliate partners gear everything to driving a converting click. By contrast, partner classes like mainstream publishers, influencers, quality review sites, and other social partners often contribute significantly at earlier steps in the journey but don’t drive the last touch before purchase. Based on a simplistic attribution model like last-click, you’ll short-change those partners and not understand their actual contributions when budgeting for future efforts.
Awin has conducted extensive research into how accurate attribution enhances channel and partner allocation and drives better overall results for brands. For example, we worked with a leading apparel brand to compare credit allocation based on last-click versus accurate algorithmic attribution via SingleView.
Using last click, the brand spent heavily on incentive-based partnerships because they appeared to drive the vast majority of the revenue. The client thought that mainstream media publishers and email partners might be creating demand but had no evidence.
When the SingleView model identified the true value of each partner’s contribution, the brand discovered that its mainstream media partners were driving a great deal more revenue per dollar invested than the incentive sites. By shifting to accurate multi-channel attribution from SingleView, the client drove an immediate 19% increase in ROAS and a 12% savings in overall affiliate spend. These savings freed up resources to test additional partner types that helped drive further growth.
Take the Next Step!
Awin has many examples of how accurate attribution has helped brands deliver commissions more fairly and make budget decisions that cut costs and boosted program growth. And with the recent launch of SingleView reporting within the Awin interface, it’s now even easier for advertisers using the solution to access this level of insight.
Contact your account manager if you are an Awin client and want to learn more about SingleView.
If you’re not working with Awin, our team would love to help you better understand attribution and the true business value of every marketing action. Please get in touch for more information about genuine multi-channel attribution and SingleView.
Awin is a marketing technology platform, providing an open marketplace for businesses to manage any type of partnership. From traditional affiliates, mass media, influencers to B2B, advertisers selling products or services online can seamlessly leverage engaged consumer audiences to grow sales, expand customer reach and strengthen their brand. With over 400 merchants and 12,000 publishers joining our US network each month, Awin is the fastest growing platform in the US. Our data-led multi-touch attribution solution empowers ecommerce brands to drive incremental e-commerce growth and guaranteed results.
Join us on March 3 for our webinar - “Publisher Technology: The Next Big Step in Affiliate Innovation.” Sponsored by Awin, our panel of industry experts will discuss development resources and innovative technology tools needed as publishers demand more sophisticated tools to scale their businesses.
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