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James Perrin
James Perrin

James Perrin, our Head of Content, talks to you in this article, our second in our Catapult series on the evolving relationship we have with data, about the challenging subject of attribution and a shift in approach to it.

In our last article we looked at the impending doom of 3rd party cookie data. There are opportunities aplenty, but one thing that needs closer attention is the thorny subject of attribution.   

Attribution isn’t easy. And losing more data will make things harder if you don’t change; change what you’re doing and the way you look at it. The future of data, cookies and attribution is going to look very different – and it’s up to us to change the way we look at it to see the opportunities. 


Accuracy is the most obvious problem. You run a campaign with multi-touchpoints, and with current attribution models, you can’t truly understand which touchpoint has had the biggest impact.

Take the six attribution models available on Google Analytics. There is an inherent problem with every single one of these models. They give credit to traffic sources based only on their position in a linear sequence. They do not consider the customer journey as being dynamic and flexible.

Without a customer-first approach to attribution, what we report on and why, will have huge ramifications on what a business knows and understands about their campaigns and customers. Ultimately, it’s going to affect their business decisions, be it marketing, sales, operations etc. 


Making decisions on a position in a sequence and not a customer’s journey is not only inaccurate, it has the potential to get your business in a bit of bother, if you rely on the data. Decisions to invest in the right type of media, research, development and training will all be skewed. But, operationally, it can cause channel silos - a very real and dangerous threat to anyone’s marketing output.

The broad issue with silos is that your campaign will simply not be as effective should you operate this way. Think bigger, think about your customer, their journey and how to offer them the best experience. To do this, you no longer need to be digging around in the trenches looking at which channel has performed the best, you need to be thinking less about attribution and more about contribution. Where can you really make a big difference to your customer?


Opportunities obviously lie with the data you own. Spend time cultivating the right experience and message to your customer at various stages of their journey. However, first-party data can be a minefield equal to that of third-party data.

First-party data provides brands with implied consumer preferences through your interactions with a consumer. As such, brands would still be walking the GDPR tightrope. A number of high-profile cases such as Marriott International and British Airways makes it more important than ever to proactively explore GDPR-compliant ways to communicate with and advertise to customers.

Equally, customers are becoming more aware of the value of their data. As they seek out better experiences, they are more than willing to give away their data to a brand who can offer a more valuable experience. We’re moving into a world where customers proactively and deliberately share data for a better experience.


This is data, owned by the consumer, that is intentionally shared with brands. The consumer retains control over their own data, how it’s used and treated. It’s a way for brands to ask consumers directly what they want, like data preferences, purchase intentions, but also personal context. For consumers it’s about an improved, personalised, experience with a brand they trust.

But how do brands convince customer’s to part with their data? It becomes an issue of value exchange. What information are customers willing to give a brand, and what are they expecting to receive in turn? It’s a huge opportunity to build better, more intimate relationship with customers through better use of content and creative.

There are some good examples of brands doing this well. Thread, the men’s ecommerce fashion company, offer bespoke shopping by combining AI with a personalised style service. Customers willingly hand over their fashion preferences, body type information, demographics, in exchange for a highly personalised wardrobe and shopping experience. It’s win win for both customers and brands.


Our understanding of attribution in today’s third-party data world is changing. The battle ground is with consented, zero-party, data. The way your brand offers a value exchange with your customers is where you need to focus. Think less about the channels and more about your audience - how to attract and engage them, how to encourage them to proactively share personal data, how to offer them a personalised experience better than your competitors.

When you start to look at it this way, the issue of attribution, as we currently know it, almost becomes irrelevant. About time too, I say.


Join us next time…

Keep your eyes peeled next week, for the third instalment of our series. Chris Laas, our Head of Digital Marketing, will tackle the subject of first-party data and the opportunities with the data you own.

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