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Analytics Academy Choosing the right stack: Lesson 2
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How to choose the best attribution provider

You need to know what marketing campaigns are working so you can do more of them, but how? Learn about the attribution vendor landscape with insights on what tool might be best for your team.

Getting attribution right is a critical part of your growth machine. Not only does it help you justify your marketing budget and spend, but also it helps you determine where you're getting the best "bang for your buck". Nailing your attribution strategy sets the foundation for future growth. Getting it wrong can lead you down the path of wasted spend and poor return on your marketing spend.

What is an attribution tool?

Let's start from the beginning. Attribution tools help you determine the success of your digital advertising campaigns and other marketing channels. They sit between your marketing tools and your website, app or other owned endpoints to determine which acquisition sources are driving conversion and provide you with a detailed, full-story picture of your customer journey.

Typically, their tracking mechanism is based on cookies, tags or UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) code and shows all touch points a customer had before converting.

Why do you need an attribution vendor?

Attribution modeling has become increasingly important as online marketing becomes more complex and as customers are able to engage across a greater number of touch points. Using attribution tools allows you to measure which touch points most influence conversion. They give you visibility into what would otherwise be a black box

Market-wide, increasingly larger data sets are making attribution more difficult. For example, Google Analytics doesn't show which organic search terms drove visits at the keyword level. So, if a customer abandons a cart after clicking an Instagram ad but later returns to purchase from a Google search, the later touch point might get all the credit for the sale. This causes you to over report conversions from certain channels, under report on others, and not understand how to optimally allocate your spend. However, with a multi-touch attribution tool, you'll see the full picture and be able to allocate spend accordingly.

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Considerations for choosing an attribution tool

This begs the question, where should a company start when selecting an attribution vendor? Which aspects matter most? You should think about two primary criteria:

  • How many integrations the attribution tool has natively

  • How many devices the tool covers, ranging from mobile only to full suite (mobile, desktop, and offline).

Secondarily, you'll also want to consider cost and ease of implementation. Depending on how intuitive it is to use, it may require implementation help from development teams or might be more "plug-and-play" and appropriate for a performance marketing or growth team.

Number of integrations

You'll want to consider how broadly various tool integrate with your existing ad tracking vendors, if you're using some already. The more coverage the tool provides, the more publishers and partners you can use without additional attribution set-up. You may want to use more integrations as your business grows, so a tool with wide coverage allows you to maintain optionality. Ideally, the attribution tool will have an API that integrates with your CRM, email provider, online ad platforms, and search.

How many devices are covered?

Attribution tools can cover more than just tagging and tracking all your paid media. The more channels and devices that are easily tracked, the deeper the insights and the more complete the picture of your customer journey is. It might make sense for your business to focus on mobile only attribution, or you may require desktop and offline attribution as well. Some attribution tools provide tracking for email marketing, website (think blog posts), video, mobile app — and even TV tracking capabilities.

Attribution landscape overview

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The attribution provider landscape

Adjust

Enables app marketers to see organic installs, track ad clicks, in-app events and have unlimited lookback. Adjust also offers audience building, fraud prevention and uninstall & reinstall products.

Functionality:

  • Mobile only

  • Integrates with over 1,000 advertising partners

  • Supports 21 languages, across 11 countries

  • Attributes credit across all digital and offline sources

Adjust is great for:

  • Objective: Tying each user to the ads they interact with and preventing fraud

  • Company Size: Mostly small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) and Startups

  • Monthly Active Users: Can support relatively low volumes

AppsFlyer

With an emphasis on mobile attribution, AppsFlyer attributes every app install to the marketing campaign and media source that drove it. Granular dashboards report which network or channel, ad type, ad group, and ad creative drove each user. AppsFlyer acts almost as a hybrid between application monitoring and mobile attribution, connecting app installs and performance back to marketing campaigns.

Functionality:

  • Integrates real-time with leading ad networks

  • Enables universal deep linking, fingerprinting and secure post-backs

  • Syncs data across thousands of integrated providers

AppsFlyer is great for:

  • Objective: Tying mobile installs to online marketing campaigns

  • Company Size: Small and mid-size businesses

  • Monthly Active Users: 1K+ mobile installs per month

Attribution

Enables multi-touch attribution for Startups and SMBs to allow marketers to see their return on ad spend. Pulling cost data from all major ad platforms, it correlates spend to specific users or accounts, then tracks ROI from those over time.

Functionality:

  • Tracks cohort based lifetime value (LTV) of customers

  • Integrates with multiple platforms

  • Attributes credit across all ad sources

Attribution is great for:

  • Objective: Tracking LTV across multiple ad sources

  • Company Size: Mostly SMBs and Startups

  • Monthly Active Users: Can support relatively low volumes

Branch Metrics

Branch is primarily a deep linking company. It supports cross-channel attribution, so marketers can tie data to links, categorize features, campaigns, and tags, and send out via Facebook, email, or SMS to encourage actions like shares, signups, or deals. Their platform enables full-funnel measurement based on stage, tag, campaign or feature. It sends in-app content to users with deferred deep links, contextual deep links, Android or Apple iOS universal links, and Facebook app links, monitoring for accuracy.

Functionality:

  • Multi-channel attribution

  • Deep-linking

  • Influencer analytics

  • Content analytics

  • Data integrations and insights

Branch Metrics is great for:

  • Objective: Linking platforms to supercharge your app growth

  • Company Size: Startup, Mid-market and Enterprise

  • Monthly Active Users: 10K installs +

Kochava

Kochava offers mobile attribution, analytics, and data management platform (DMP). It sends email, Slack, SMS, or PagerDuty alerts when key metrics change, conversion rates increase, revenue decreases, or install volumes change. It's the only mobile attribution tool that will attribute install without their SDK needing to be loaded in-app (it can attribute installs via cloud mode integration).

Functionality:

  • Mobile only

  • Not exclusively an attribution provider

  • Flags for mobile ad fraud

  • Attributes credit across all digital and offline sources

  • Attributes install without their SDK needing to be loaded in-app

Kochava is great for:

  • Objective: Getting mobile attribution and data management platform (DMP) level targeting in one platform

  • Company Size: All sizes

  • Monthly Active Users: 5K+

Localytics

With the Localytics True Impact product, users can access campaign reports, implement A/B message testing, and understand where their app and marketing efforts are working and where they're falling short. Localytics includes mobile and geo-tracking, so is great for supporting businesses that benefit from this feature, such as Travel. Though only available for mobile exclusively, it aims to help customers get more ROI out of their mobile app.

Functionality:

  • A/B testing

  • Advanced Analytics

  • Mobile specialized

  • Geo-targeting based on location

Localytics is great for:

  • Objective: Using mobile tracking and geo-targeting to optimize app downloads, conversions, and engagement.

  • Company Size: All sizes

  • Monthly Active Users: Can support small audiences to large-scale

Singular

Singular bills itself as marketing intelligence platform that unifies marketing campaign data and attribution data in a single dashboard. Singular has large number of integrations available which makes it easier for marketers using the platform to track anything and generate insights across channels.

Functionality:

  • Mobile attribution

  • Mobile and web cost aggregation

  • Creative optimization across all media sources

  • Single source of truth for marketing campaigns

  • Granular ROI for every campaign, ad, creative unit, publisher, network

Singular is great for:

  • Objective: Connecting every dollar spent to an outcome

  • Company size: Mid-size and enterprise businesses

  • Monthly Active Users: 10K+

Tapstream

Tapstream focuses on mobile app attribution that is network-agnostic, requiring fewer SDK installs. They have integrations with multiple ad platforms and their platform allows for some customization.

Functionality:

  • Mobile only

  • Not exclusively an attribution platform; also offers app analytics, event tracking, A/B testing and campaign landers

  • You only need to install one SDK to support hundreds of ad networks

Tapstream is great for:

  • Objective: Mobile attribution and event tracking

  • Company size: Small and mid-sized businesses

  • Monthly Active Users: Can support relatively low volumes

Tune

Tune covers organic installs, ad optimization, and in-app marketing. It automates deep-linked push notifications and in-app messaging to custom user segments based on in-app behavior, demographics, and location. Tune supports a drag-and-drop dashboard, so marketers can create their own data visualizations.

Functionality:

  • Mobile only

  • App store analytics

  • Attribution

  • In-app marketing

  • Ad fraud prevention

Tune is great for

  • Objective: Getting mobile attribution and data management platform (DMP) level targeting in one platform

  • Company Size: Small startups looking to scale their business up to Fortune 500 companies

  • Monthly Active Users: Can support relatively low volumes

Visual IQ

They are one of the few vendors with a native Facebook integration. They also have offline tracking integration because they are a Nielsen company and that comes with all of a larger company's learnings. While this feature is more of a nice to have, it helps to show positive ROI, particularly for retailers.

Functionality:

  • Offline attribution

  • Nielsen insights

  • Native Facebook integration

Visual IQ is great for:

  • Objective: Getting deeper insights into FB ads and integrating with offline channels.

  • Customer Company Size: Based on spend - at least $3-$5M per year

  • Monthly Active Users: 10K+

Making the final call

Just the fact that you are considering an attribution partner is a big step in the right direction. So, gold star for you and your team so far :D.

The analysis provided in this lesson will help you construct your shortlist and get you up to speed on what are some of the elements you should be keeping an eye out for when it comes to features and functionality. Making the final call should, however, should come down to an in-depth review of how the solution handles your use cases and the associated cost. For startups or smaller companies, many of the attribution providers on this list offer a free plan up to a certain volume.

For more information on the attribution tools that Segment offers, check out our catalog of integrations.


Side note: Are you an attribution provider that's interested in snagging a spot on this list? Get more information on Segment's partner program.

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