How to see what's REALLY driving ecommerce customer acquisition

Beyond Last Click Attribution: How to Learn What’s REALLY Driving Ecommerce Customer Acquisition

Alight Analytics Alight Insights

“Ecommerce customer acquisition” is a fancy way to ask a pretty straightforward question: How can we lead more shoppers to our site? 

That’s not easy to answer in today’s omnichannel world, where an ecommerce business might use search, social, email, display and a multitude of other marketing channels to promote their products. 

Even if you can get a handle on all the performance data each channel generates — and it’s usually a lot of data — you still have to decide how much each marketing tactic contributed to your sales. You need an attribution model. 

How to see what's REALLY driving ecommerce customer acquisition

A good attribution model is a process for determining which marketing tactics are delivering actual, will-spend-money customers. That way, you can devote more money and time to the advertising that attracts these ideal shoppers. 

For years, last click attribution was the default model for many ecommerce companies concerned about marketing ROI. But that’s changing. In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What last click attribution is, and why it’s a less popular tool for determining marketing ROI
  • How multi-channel attribution takes a broader look at marketing’s impact on conversions
  • Why data-driven attribution might be the best option for many ecommerce sites

What Is Last Click Attribution?

Last click attribution is a model that looks at the “last click” that person made before arriving at your site. That last step receives the credit for bringing that person to you — it could be something like a search result, your email newsletter, a social media post or a display ad. Whatever was most recent is most important. 

Google Analytics recognizes a few other varieties of last click, which it calls “Last Interaction”:

  • “Last Non-Direct Click” is the platform’s default. It looks for the last thing your visitors did before arriving at your website not counting if they simply typed your site’s URL into their browser.  
  • “Last Google Ads Click” attributes the conversion to the last Google Ad the person clicked. 

Last click is simple to understand, and it can be a decent indicator of a marketing channel’s impact, especially if you’re selling a quick-converting product where a customer makes a purchase almost immediately after seeing your ad. 

A close cousin to last click is first click attribution, which is exactly what it sounds like. First click is a good method to figure out how customers are discovering your company, so it’s a possible solution for ecommerce sites that are laser-focused on increasing awareness. (In Google Analytics, first click is known as “First Interaction.”)

Unfortunately, first and last click usually don’t tell the whole story for products involving any kind of consideration phase. You miss the opportunity to see how your entire arsenal of marketing messages is working together to increase ecommerce customer acquisition.   

The better choice is to employ a multi-channel attribution model. 

What Is Multi-Channel Attribution? Why Is It Better Than Last Click Attribution?

Multi-channel attribution — also known as omnichannel attribution or cross-channel attribution — considers multiple channels’ impact on conversions. Emarketer.com estimates that almost 60 percent of marketers will use some form of multi-channel attribution this year. 

Here are a few of the most common models: 

Positional attribution splits most of the credit between the first and last click. Specifically, if you’re a Google Analytics user, the first and last touchpoint each get 40 percent of the credit, while everything else divides up the remaining 20 percent. 

Linear attribution divvies up the credit equally. Let’s say your customer had four interactions before converting. Each touchpoint gets 25 percent of the credit for the conversion. 

Time decay attribution assigns value to each interaction according to how recent it was. An interaction five minutes before a conversion is worth more than something from last week. 

These models each have their merits, but at some level, they’re all arbitrary because they’re based on broad rules that may or may not apply to your unique ecommerce business. 

But good news, we’ve saved the best for last.

Why is data-driven attribution better for ecommerce than last click attribution?

Why Data-Driven Attribution Is Better for Ecommerce Customer Acquisition

A data-driven attribution model — also called an advanced attribution model — will consider all the touchpoints on the customer journey, across all channels, leading up to all your conversions to determine which ones are statistically most likely to have contributed to a purchase, compared to the touchpoints that didn’t. 

Because a data-driven approach looks at all your data, you’re more likely to spot trends and patterns that would otherwise be overlooked by a rules-based attribution program. And everything is based on your data, meaning it’s tailored to your unique marketplace, product lineup and customers. 

Data-driven attribution is more powerful, but also more difficult to implement. It usually requires a more sophisticated set of data science skills, such as statistical analysis and machine learning, as well as a fairly substantial amount of data. 

Google Analytics, for example, requires you to be a user of its Google Analytics 360 service to use its data-driven attribution. You also need a Google Ads account with at least 15,000 clicks on Google Search and a conversion action with at least 600 conversions within 30 days. 

And Google Analytics 360 is designed to work primarily with Google-owned services. You can upload CSV files from other platforms, but this could slow down the pace of your analysis.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

If you’re feeling this all might be beyond you, just know that a lot of marketing teams don’t feel confident about data-driven attribution. According to a 2018 survey, fewer than 38 percent of respondents described their company’s knowledge of data-driven attribution as good or excellent. 

Alight’s ChannelMix platform for marketing performance analytics can help. It aggregates, cleans and unifies data from any marketing, media or sales platform, including Google Analytics and its sister services. Use offline media like radio and TV? ChannelMix works with those, too. We also have a business intelligence and data science team that can help you build out a data-driven attribution model. 

Why Attribution Matters for Ecommerce Customer Acquisition

Ecommerce customer acquisition — getting the right shoppers to your site — is an essential element of your success as an online retailer. And if you’re like most people in this space, you’re devoting a significant amount of time to attracting and retaining shoppers, constantly optimizing your strategy. 

But you can’t optimize what you can’t measure. Having a solid attribution model gives you the power to effectively assess marketing performance, so you can tell the difference between a wasted marketing budget and one that consistently draws shoppers. 

Take the Next Step on Your Journey

Customer journey analytics — including ecommerce analytics — is a core discipline for Alight Analytics, and our ChannelMix platform is uniquely suited to the challenge of managing the multiple data sources required for these kinds of insights, at the speed and scale you need. Our services team also can supply the expertise in data science and strategy necessary, freeing you from the need to hire full-time staff.  

Schedule a call today to learn how we can help you increase your insight and revenue!