Attribution vs. Incrementality

There are so many campaign measurement methodologies that can measure success, and we won’t blame you if your head is spinning. Some are (much) better than others, and with access to better data and more technology comes more options. The commerce media boom is making it clear that actual purchase data is now seen as the gold standard when it comes to measuring ad effectiveness.

While performance metrics like clickthrough rate and completion rate can give you a directional sense of campaign performance, it’s nearly impossible to tie them back to real business outcomes. Since attribution and incrementality are the primary methodology pillars of commerce data measurement, here’s the 411 on each of them, including pros and cons, and how they can be used together.

Sales Attribution Measurement

Sales attribution measurement is a methodology used to determine which marketing channels or touchpoints contributed to a sale or conversion. It aims to attribute credit or assign value to each marketing activity based on its influence on the consumer’s decision to make a purchase. This approach typically relies on tracking and analyzing user actions, such as clicks, views, or engagements, along the customer journey to attribute sales. Attribution relies on correlation, rather than causation.

  • Provides insights into the performance of individual marketing channels or touchpoints
  • Always on, allowing marketers to act on findings quickly
  • Enables marketers to allocate budgets based on the perceived effectiveness of each channel
  • Helps optimize campaigns by identifying high-performing channels and improving underperforming ones
  • Relies heavily on tracking user interactions, which may not always capture the full complexity of consumer behavior
  • Attribution models may differ in accuracy, leading to discrepancies and debates about which model to use
  • Can overvalue the last touchpoint before a conversion and undervalue other influential touchpoints along the customer journey
  • Can be slow to adapt to environmental and macroeconomic changes

Sales Incrementality Measurement

Sales incrementality measurement is a methodology used to assess the incremental impact of advertising on sales. It seeks to determine whether the advertising efforts led to additional sales that would not have occurred otherwise. This approach often involves running controlled experiments, such as A/B tests or holdout groups, to measure the uplift in sales caused by the advertising campaign. Incrementality relies on causation, rather than correlation.

  • Provides a direct measure of the incremental impact of advertising, isolating its effects from other factors
  • Offers a more accurate understanding of the true impact of advertising on sales, taking external factors into account, such as the economy and seasonality
  • Helps optimize marketing strategies by identifying the most effective campaigns that drive incremental sales
  • Results are a point-in-time snapshot that take months to aggregate, making it hard to act on findings quickly
  • Requires rigorous experimental design, which can be complex and time-consuming
  • May not capture the long-term effects or the indirect influence of advertising on consumer behavior
  • The cost and effort associated with running experiments may limit the scale and frequency of measurement

How They Can Be Used Together

Sales attribution and sales incrementality measurement can complement each other to provide a more comprehensive understanding of advertising effectiveness.

Sales attribution measurement can identify the channels or touchpoints that drive conversions and provide insights into the customer journey. It helps marketers optimize their advertising mix, allocate budgets, and identify opportunities for improvement. However, it may not capture the full impact of advertising or account for external factors that influence sales.

Today, Attain offers real-time attribution measurement, which uses opted-in commerce data from over 5 million consumers that span all verticals, retailers, and channels. Attain’s attribution product allows marketers to measure granular campaign performance in near real-time, enabling them to make optimizations on the fly. This serves as a great compliment to legacy measurement providers where results take longer to come back, and are reported on the campaign level.

Sales incrementality measurement, on the other hand, directly measures the incremental impact of advertising on sales. It provides a more accurate assessment of advertising effectiveness by isolating its effects from other factors. However, it may not reveal which specific channels or touchpoints are the most influential. Attain’s incrementality solution is in development and will be available to advertisers in the second half of 2023.

By using both approaches, marketers have a more holistic perspective of performance. Sales attribution measurement helps understand the customer journey and optimize channel performance, while sales incrementality measurement validates the true impact of advertising and guides strategic decision-making.

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