One of the hottest marking topics is attribution — i.e., which marketing channel (or channels) gets credit for a single sale. Attention to attribution is skyrocketing because in many companies reporting has been set up so that every channel claims 100 percent of the final sale, even when their efforts were only partially responsible. This "double counting" of converted traffic has led to inflated marketing channel reports and, more importantly, has companies overpaying for sales and leads.
In an attempt to eliminate double counting, the majority of retailers choose to only value the "last in" marketing channel, giving that channel full credit for the sale. This is particularly prevalent, but also very problematic, in the affiliate world, as last-in attribution also determines who gets paid when there are multiple affiliates in the same click stream.
So what's wrong with last in? Five years to 10 years ago, there were far fewer marketing channels online and it made sense to value the channel closest to the sale. The logic was if a customer came through a given affiliate a few months ago, then came through a second affiliate at a later time, the second affiliate probably had more responsibility for the transaction. So last in became the default industry standard since it seemed that there could be more abuse with first-in affiliates who tried to set a lot of clicks in hopes that someone might buy later.
However, today's online shopper may come through up to five online marketing channels before completing a single transaction, with many industry studies putting the average at about 3.5. And while the last-in attribution model grew from the best of intentions, it's led to a very large number of affiliates that explicitly develop and deploy business models to be that very last click in a purchase cycle. Unfortunately, the value of the majority of these methods are questionable, as they inherently target consumers who fall into one of the following categories: