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Attribution: How To Understand Which Marketing Channel Really Drives Digital ROI

06 Jun 2019 Zafreen Zerilli

in Digital, Strategy, Data

While brand marketers agree that attribution is critical for measuring impact, eMarketer recently reported that less than 10% of companies are able to holistically attribute their data. As Stella Rising’s VP of Analytics, my intent with this blog post is to break down what that means, but also to describe why Stella Rising prioritizes leadership in this data space.


DoubleClick Manager, Google Analytics, Facebook Business Manager, Pinterest advertising, and most other, similar, platforms all have a commonality: when attributing a conversion, they give credit to the last touchpoint. As an example of that, let’s say that a sneaker brand targets a user (we’ll call him Jason) through a video ad on Facebook. Jason engages with the ad, watching it in full. Next, Jason might consider the sneakers for a few days, seeing another ad on Instagram and hearing a promotion on his favorite podcast. On the fifth day of this typical journey, Jason types the sneaker brand name into Google, clicks on the paid search ad, and converts in that session. A site analytics platform like Google Analytics will give the credit of Jason’s sale to Google PPC. Now, multiply Jason’s experience a hundredfold and fast-forward to a marketing budget meeting. Quite reasonably with that data set, the CMO of the sneaker company might decide to cut the video budget and increase the SEM budget, noting that paid search ads converted at a higher rate than those featuring the video. But what if the video was the most persuasive element, and the marketing team simply cannot discern that? 


At Stella Rising, we achieve holistic attribution by running a probabilistic model that weighs each touchpoint in the consumer journey and accurately depicts that touchpoint’s role in driving a conversion. In our work, we focus on the fact that the last touchpoint should not receive 100% credit, and that the role of search and organic behaviors are often over-inflated. We see attribution as a team effort; any factor that assists in a conversion should receive credit for that support. To get that view, we ingest thousands of paths to conversion by downloading unique conversion paths derived from cookie level data.

Then, we run a Markov Chain model to give each channel used in the journey the appropriate weight. Essentially, the influence of a channel is determined by weighing the probability of conversion with that channel against the probability of conversion without that channel. What further differentiates our work from other data driven attribution solutions is that we incorporate view-thru credit in the final output. With this unique data point, we genuinely round out the picture and can offer clients an accurate view of what is and what isn’t driving success. This approach to attribution enlarges the data universe, accounting for all factors, rather than presenting a siloed view from one platform.


Helpfully, this statistical analysis can guide brands through important marketing decisions. By understanding both influencer and direct credit to determine the true conversions driven by a channel, we can then leverage the data driven attribution ROIs by channel to allocate budget appropriately, optimizing client’s digital channel mix. For the same budget, we can help drive greater returns by shifting dollars into and out of the proper channels. Our recommendations are not based on last click or any other rule-based algorithm. Instead, they are driven by the client’s actual data, incorporating view and click based results.


Most companies have trouble accessing the proper data, running the ideal models, and tackling the cutting-edge technology, thereby hindering a holistic view of their marketing efforts. Also, with the goal posts around data always changing, it can be tricky for companies to keep up. Stella Rising has the strategy, team, and methods in place to implement a holistic data strategy for your brand. Understand the real story, uncover whitespace, and better align your efforts by reaching out to us today. 

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