Home  /  affiliate marketing  /  Explaining Multi-Channel Attribution in Affiliate Marketing

Explaining Multi-Channel Attribution in Affiliate Marketing

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” This quote is attributed to John Wanamaker, a 19th-century American merchant who’s considered a pioneer in marketing. 

Wanamaker made these remarks more than a century ago but his words still resonate with modern-day marketers. Even in the age of information —it’s not easy to track what marketing channels actually influence the customer to buy.

image1 (1)

Buyers these days browse a company’s social media profile, search for other customer reviews and examine the competitor’s websites before making their final decision. It’s a long and intricate journey that could stretch to several weeks. 

It’s difficult for marketers to determine where exactly the bulk of the marketing budget should be allocated to get the best possible outcome. And when affiliates are involved, things become even trickier. 

Multi-Channel Attribution is Already Complex

Although it happens, most customers don’t just buy a product within a single session. If a customer searches for shoes on a search engine, clicks on the first ranked website “Footwear.com” and orders straight away —there is no need for a marketing attribution model. The search engine is responsible for the conversion. 

But let’s imagine a different scenario. Here, a customer clicks on Footwear.com but doesn’t buy the shoes. A few days later, the same individual watches the shoe’s review on a social media page that includes a promo code from Footwear.com. A week later, the customer revisits the website and uses the code to make the purchase. 

Most buyer’s journeys are like the one described above. This is the reason why online businesses invest in conversion optimization audit and multi-channel attribution. Some attribution models accredit the sale to the last used referral or click.

But that doesn’t portray an accurate picture. The customers are influenced by a variety of factors and engaged with multiple channels before finally ordering the product. 

Only focusing on the last touchpoint is reductive and could mislead the website into investing in channels that don’t provide the best ROI. 

What Happens when Affiliate Marketing is Involved

Affiliates play a role in different stages of the sales funnel. On top are the content bloggers with their product reviews and on the bottom are coupon websites. There are different channels in the middle of the funnel too. Finding their worth and contribution in conversion isn’t that simple.


Likewise, due to the increased number of parties involved, it becomes extremely likely that each will use different software and tools to analyze channel performance. This will lead to discrepancies in data as affiliate marketers will report different results using separate mechanisms. Determining the channels providing the best ROI becomes tough in this scenario.

Without accurate data, you wouldn’t be able to verify the affiliate commissions and completely understand what value some of these external channels provide to your business. Multi-channel attribution is complicated on their own and affiliates being involved in the mix makes them even more layered. 

Implementing Attribution Models in Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing outline concept vector illustration

Attribution is extremely important with affiliates as businesses have to give them a cut of the sale. Many companies would prefer not to pay an affiliate a commission based on the revenue of $80 when the attributed revenue is actually $50. It’s all about creating a model that ensures your marketing budget is utilized effectively so you get more bang for your buck. 

So how do you go about making this happen? The answer lies in the different models of commissioning that are provided by a number of affiliate platforms. Here are some of the common models of attribution.

  • Linear Commissions 

All points of contact, be it the paid advertisement, social media, website, or multiple affiliates are equally credited for the conversion.

  • Preferred Affiliate

Businesses select an affiliate or multiple preferred affiliates which receive 100% of the attribution regardless of how many points of contact were involved in the funnel.

  • Custom Attribution

Combination of other models or an entirely new mechanism for attribution. 

  • Exclusive Coupon Code

Affiliates are provided exclusive coupon codes. When these coupons are redeemed, 100% of the sale is attributed to the affiliate. 

  • First Click Attribution

The first affiliate in the sales process receives  100% of the attribution.

  • Last Click Attribution

The last affiliate involved in the sales process gets 100% of the attribution.

eCommerce companies choose these models based on the role affiliates to have in their overall marketing strategy. If a business is after new prospects, affiliates can be encouraged through an attribution model where a value is assigned to new customers. 

Some businesses continue to use the last-click model and give 100% attribution to affiliates despite having data on attribution. This is because these enterprises consider affiliates as an important part of their marketing puzzle. 

Final Words

Multi-channel attribution allows businesses to get an insight into the buyer’s journey and their own marketing performance. Knowing which channels are proving to be an effective help in meeting sales objectives and make most of the company’s resources. The same information is used to justify the commission being paid to the affiliates. 

With the multitudes of models available, it’s not possible to single out the best one. A better strategy is to examine the attribution models on a case-by-case basis to see which one fits your business model. 

After selecting the appropriate attribution model, it’s important to adopt it in a structured manner where the company’s marketing and sales departments are on board. Get this right and you have the recipe for marketing success.