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Matt Bahr


Attribution Basics

The State of Marketing Attribution

With years of experience under his belt, Matt is a leader in the eCommerce space. He co-founded Fairing in 2020, a marketing analytics and attribution solution used by over 2,000 Shopify Plus brands.

In This Article:

The State of Attribution

Welcome to the first chapter of the Fairing Attribution Academy! I’m Matt, CEO and Co-founder of Fairing. I’ve been in the e-commerce and digital marketing space for a little over 14 years, and have been fortunate to work with multiple 8 and 9-figure brands. In this time, I’ve seen dramatic changes in measurement and attribution methodology and marketers' access to data.

In this chapter, I hope to distill those years in the market into a timely, impactful update that serves to educate you, the reader, on modern day measurement best practices. With that, let’s set the stage by looking at The State of Attribution today.

Before 2014

The genesis of digital attribution can be traced back to the simpler times of last-click attribution, a model that for years held sway over digital advertising performance. It’s not something I’d recommend in 2024, but alas, simplicity often wins. (Something many measurement practitioners could learn from.)

As new media types were introduced and marketers could diversify their budget and advertise on multiple channels, last click’s limitations became glaringly apparent. This led to the advent of multi-touch attribution (MTA) models whose goal is to distribute credit across multiple touch points.

To make matters worse, the introduction of smartphones added another wrinkle—the need to track the customer journey across multiple devices. Arguably, this is a problem that will never be solved with MTA’s bottoms-up approach.

Today, most marketers actually don’t necessarily care about each touchpoint (and certainly not the last), but rather the total return on each investment in ad spend. If I spend more money on this channel, will I get a greater return than if I didn’t?

This heuristic is also often combined with the ease in which a channel can be measured—blackbox multi-channel measurement will most likely not prevail. We’ve come a long way from if it can’t be directly measured, don’t allocate spend, but we’re certainly no where close to where we were in the pre-digital marketing era.

2014 to 2021: Pre-Apple Privacy Shift

From 2014 to April 2021, a combination of both platform-reported measurement + Google Analytics last-click was king. The majority of ad spend was on Facebook & Instagram, AKA Meta (and still very much is). Brands built a competitive advantage through their ability to acquire customers at scale. If you worked through this time, the phrase “LTV:CAC ratio” might trigger some interesting memories, although we’ll save that topic for a different day. We’ve migrated from What’s your CAC to What’s your MER?—a question that’s more representative of a brand’s P&L than their unit economics.

One of the biggest learnings of this time was that building a business on projected cashflow from returning customers for a non-subscription product is in no way sustainable.

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