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What Is an Attribution Window and Why Does It Matter?

ByHimadri Sharma

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Imagine your ecommerce business has launched a multi-channel marketing campaign: social media ads, email newsletters, and search engine marketing. However, without a set time frame to track touchpoints and conversions, crediting the right campaign and channel becomes difficult.

For instance, suppose a user reads an email and then makes a purchase four days later. In this scenario, the email might not receive due credit for the purchase. This highlights the necessity of setting an attribution window. By setting an attribution window for your campaign, you ensure that delayed actions receive proper attribution.

In this blog, we'll explore attribution windows: what they are, the challenges they pose, the various models/types, how they function, and the significance of setting the right attribution window for your business.

Table of contents

What is an attribution window?

An attribution window is a specific timeframe during which any conversion, such as a purchase or sign-up, that results from a marketing campaign is credited to the campaign's channel for influencing the customer's action.

For example, let's say a customer clicks on a Google ad and makes a purchase within one day. In this case, the conversion would be attributed to the Google ad. However, if the customer makes a purchase 30 days later, the conversion would not be attributed to the Google ad within a one-day attribution window.

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The challenge of attributing conversions

In any marketing campaign, one of the most common challenges is accurately attributing conversions. When a conversion occurs, and you attempt to trace its source among multiple marketing touchpoints, uncertainties arise. Determining which campaign deserves credit becomes a puzzle, complicated by the customer's journey through various channels. Questions about which channel to credit and the right time window for attribution add to the complexity.

Let's explore some common scenarios to understand the challenge:

Scenario 1: The user saw a campaign but did not make any action

It's difficult to track the campaign's impact because, even if the campaign influenced the decision, it doesn't get the credit. Measuring the influence of a campaign that didn’t interact with a user until conversion is tough.

For example, a user sees a TV ad and remembers the brand but doesn't interact immediately.

Scenario 2: The user saw a campaign, and clicked the CTA but took no further action

This situation could mean the campaign was compelling, but the landing page or offer needed to be more engaging. It can be misleading, suggesting the campaign was effective when the follow-through wasn't.

For example, a user clicks on a "Sign Up" ad but abandons the form.

A user who sees a video campaign for the Astrotalk app, which connects users with astrologers. The user doesn't click the ‘download now’ but remembers it later while discussing astrology or luck with a friend. Intrigued, they search for the app and download it from the app store. The initial ad played a crucial role in this conversion, but because the user didn't click the CTA, it may not be credited properly.

By understanding these scenarios', marketers can better navigate the complexities of setting the right attribution windows.

Different types of attribution windows

Let's take a closer look at the different types of attribution windows, each playing a unique role in how conversions are credited:

Click-through attribution

Credits conversions to channels and campaigns that were clicked on.

For example, imagine seeing an ad for a new pair of shoes on your favorite website. You click the ad, explore the shoe options, and buy a pair within the set attribution window. The conversion (your purchase) is attributed to the ad you clicked.

View-through attribution

Credits conversions to channels and campaigns that users see but don't click.

For example, if you see an online ad for a new smartphone on social media and later buy the phone directly from the website within the attribution window, the ad gets credit for the purchase, even though you didn't click on it.

Engaged view attribution

This is set specifically for video ads. Engaged-view attribution counts when someone watches a skippable video ad for at least 10 seconds or nearly the whole ad if it's under 10 seconds. The viewer must also complete your desired action (like making a purchase) within 24 hours for it to count.

For example, Lily sees a video ad for an on-demand copywriting class on Instagram Stories. She watches the ad for more than 10 seconds. The next day, she remembers the ad and signs up for the copywriting course. This sign-up is tracked as an engaged-view conversion.

How do attribution windows work?

Attribution windows monitor customer interactions within a channel and attribute conversions within a defined timeframe. This data includes all customer’s touchpoints before purchase.

There is no such defined attribution window. You can set a timeframe based on the target audience, and objective of your campaign.

Let’s take a look at a few attribution window timeframes that offer different perspectives about how long these interactions remain influential:

Attribution Window Description Example
1-day attribution Credit is given to the channels and campaigns that result in conversions within one day. A customer sees a campaign for a flash sale and purchases within 24 hours.
7-day attribution Credit is given to channels and campaigns that lead to conversions within seven days. A customer clicks on a travel ad and books a vacation within a week.
28-day attribution Credit is given to channels and campaigns that lead to conversions within 28 days. A customer clicks on a car ad and buys the car within a month.

Why is it important to set the attribution window?

There is a natural delay between exposure and action. To bridge that gap we use the concept of attribution. When you run multiple campaigns across various channels, it becomes challenging to determine which channels and campaigns deserve credit for conversions. Attribution windows help address this by providing a specific timeframe to evaluate the impact of your marketing efforts.

For example, imagine promoting a new clothing line with social media and email marketing campaigns. A customer might see your social media campaign in the morning and, a few days later, receive an email with a discount code and make a purchase. Without a proper attribution window, you might only credit the email, overlooking the social media campaign's influence.

Read about various attribution models in our detailed guide below.

By setting an appropriate attribution window, you ensure a fair and accurate measurement of your campaigns' impact. This helps businesses focus on the following three key parameters:

  1. Enhancing campaign performance analysis.
  2. Budget allocation by accurately attributing conversions to the right marketing efforts.
  3. Understanding customer journeys by tracking touchpoints and interactions.

Which attribution window is best for your business

The choice of an attribution window depends on your business goals, industry, and customer behavior. Below is a table with recommended attribution window timeframes tailored to various industries:

Industry Recommended attribution window Reason
Fashion and apparel 7-30 days Trends change rapidly; customers make quick decisions.
Food and beverage 7 days Purchases are often spontaneous or driven by short-term promotions.
Electronics and technology 30 days Customers research extensively before purchasing.
Health and wellness 14-30 days Consumers research health products before buying.
Home and decor 30 days Customers take time planning home improvement purchases.
Jewelry and luxury goods 60 days to 6 months High-end products involve lengthy decision-making processes.
Travel and hospitality 15-30 days Travel bookings often involve weeks of consideration.
B2B ecommerce 30-90 days Purchase decisions are complex and involve multiple stakeholders.
Subscription services 30-90 days Longer customer journeys are typical for subscriptions.

Remember that the choice of attribution window and model should align with your specific business goals and customer behavior patterns within your industry. Regularly reviewing and adjusting your attribution strategy is important for optimizing your marketing efforts.

Discover the intricate relationship between attribution windows and revenue attribution in our comprehensive guide below.

Conclusion

By understanding how to set an attribution window, you can gain accurate insights into your marketing efforts, leading to better decision-making and optimized campaign performance. So start attributing the credit to the right channels and double down on them to make the most of your efforts and optimize your processes.

FAQs

Attribution can still be tracked using view-through attribution, crediting conversions to ads that were seen but not clicked.

A 7-day window captures conversions that happen within seven days of interaction, providing a broader view than the more immediate 1-day attribution window.

It gives a holistic view of all interactions that led to a conversion, helping understand the full customer journey.

Yes, tailoring attribution windows to each campaign's nature can provide more accurate insights. There is no such specific attribution window timeframe. Your campaign’s objective and target audience helps you define and set the right attribution window.

This scenario is where view-through or engaged view attribution becomes valuable, capturing the ad's indirect influence and tracking the customer journey.

What should you do next?

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