Trends & Insights
Last-touch vs. multi-touch attribution: What’s the difference?
March 16, 2023
Dana Kang

App marketers should always be on the lookout for ways to optimize campaigns and measure success. A crucial part of the effort is attribution – the process of assigning credit for a conversion to a particular touchpoint. By identifying and analyzing the source of an install or purchase, you can figure out the effectiveness of different marketing actions and decide on the next steps.

There are various types of mobile attribution models, but two of the most widely used are last-touch and multi-touch. Hence, in this blog post, we will delve deeper into these two and their respective pros and cons. Keep on reading to have a better understanding of which attribution model is best suited for your app marketing needs.

What is LTA, or last-touch attribution?

The last-touch model, as the name suggests, gives all the credit to the very last touchpoint the user interacted with before converting. For instance, if a user had clicked on a TikTok Ads and then installed your app, the last-touch model would identify TikTok as the channel that is responsible for generating the specific install.

Like any other single-touch model, the last-touch model is straightforward. Even if a user had seen seven ads before converting, last-touch attribution will determine that only the seventh one deserves the conversion credit. Such simplicity and clarity make it easy to implement the model and allow app marketers to understand which touchpoints are driving the most conversions. Consequently, the last-touch model is recognized as the industry standard.

What is MTA, or multi-touch attribution?

The multi-touch model, on the other hand, assumes that all touchpoints play some role in convincing the user to convert. It thus takes various advertisements and ad networks throughout the user journey into consideration.

Rule-based multi-touch attribution

In rule-based multi-touch attribution, the credit is allocated according to a predetermined set of rules. Some of the most common include the following:

  • The linear model distributes the credit evenly among all touchpoints. For example, if a user had seen four ads before making a purchase, each ad would be given 25% of the credit for the conversion.
  • The time decay model gives more credit to touchpoints closer in time to the point of a specific in-app action. If a user had seen four ads before installing the app, the first ad may be given 10% of the credit, the second ad 20%, the third ad 30%, and the fourth ad 40%.
  • The position-based model assumes that the first and last touchpoints play a more significant role in the decision-making process. Again, if a user saw four ads before converting, both the U-shape and the W-shape models may assign 40% of the credit to the first and last touchpoints. However, the U-shape may give 5% and 15% to the touchpoints in between, whereas the W-shape model would give an equal credit of 10% each.

Algorithmic multi-touch attribution

Rule-based models are intuitive but subjective, as it is the marketer who decides how to assign the credit. As an alternative, algorithmic attribution analysis uses statistical modeling and machine learning techniques to guarantee higher objectivity. You can apply concepts of Markov chains, the Shapley value, and incrementality to conduct data-driven analysis.

Of course, such complexity implies that building an algorithm-based model requires a greater investment in time, money, and labor. Nonetheless, multi-touch remains in demand as it provides a more complete and accurate picture of the user journey as well as the value of specific sources.

In fact, working with a mobile measurement partner like Airbridge could be a more cost-effective option than going in-house. Visit our website to find out how you can benefit from our technology, experiences, and expertise to achieve the most accurate and unbiased results and drive success.

Comparing the two approaches

The last-touch and multi-touch attribution models have their own advantages and disadvantages. Here are some key characteristics you should take into account.

Last-Touch Multi-Touch
Accuracy Accompanies the risk of over- or under-valuing certain touchpoints Can provide a more complete and accurate view of the true impact of each touchpoint on the conversion
Complexity Uses a simple and straightforward standard, easy to implement Requires more data and analysis, more difficult to implement
Actionability Provides a clear answer to the question of which touchpoint led to a conversion, making it easier for businesses to take action and optimize marketing efforts Provides a more nuanced view of the user journey, which can make it harder to identify specific areas for improvement
Implications in Mobile Fails to capture the fragmented nature of user journeys, making it difficult to accurately measure performance Can use a wealth of data across multiple devices, but there may be disagreements over how credit is assigned

How to find the right model for your mobile growth

Choosing between last-touch attribution and multi-touch attribution depends on a variety of factors, including the nature of your business, your marketing goals, and the channels you use. Because there is no one-size-fits-all solution, app businesses must carefully identify which approach would best suit their needs.

Here are some recommendations for businesses looking to optimize their attribution strategy:

  1. Consider the complexity of your user journey and sales funnel. Last-touch attribution may be sufficient if your business has a simple sales funnel and a short user journey. However, if you are using multiple channels and your sales funnel is more complex, multi-touch attribution may be the way to go.
  2. Choose an attribution model that is in line with your marketing goals. Different attribution models prioritize different touchpoints, so choosing a model that aligns with your marketing goals and business objectives is essential. If you’re not satisfied with your current method of tracking, you can always try out other options.
  3. Be prepared to adapt your attribution strategy as new channels and touchpoints emerge. The mobile environment is constantly evolving, and businesses must be prepared to change accordingly.
  4. Use sophisticated tracking and analytics tools to track user behavior across multiple devices and touchpoints accurately. This will enable you to create a more accurate and comprehensive picture of the user journey.

In fact, Airbridge is here to provide app marketers with a unified measurement stack encompassing last-touch attribution, multi-touch attribution, and marketing mix modeling. Having mastered various approaches to mobile measurement, we are capable of offering the most holistic and accurate view of your marketing performance.

If you are looking for a mobile marketing partner that will help you create a robust attribution strategy and optimize your marketing efforts, get started with us today!

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Dana Kang
Product Marketing Manager
Dana is Airbridge’s Product Marketing Manager. Responsible for Airbridge’s blog, social media, and newsletter, she is passionate about building brand visibility through data-driven content.
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