This is our fourth post in our series about integration categories. Revisit our blog post “Choosing the right performance monitoring tool”  here to read about our objectives with the series!

What is an attribution tool?

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 you need an attribution vendor

As online marketing and tracking becomes increasingly complex and as we are able to track multiple prospect touch points, attribution modeling has become a key strategy for large-scale digital advertisers. Marketers have increased their sophistication, measuring which touch points most influence conversion, and using attribution tools provides 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. As an e-commerce marketer, 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 set up, you’ll see the full picture.

Considerations for choosing an attribution tool

This begs the question, where should a growth or performance marketer start when selecting an attribution vendor? Which aspects matter most? Everyone wants multi-touch attribution, but it is difficult to get right. Companies need to be reasonably sophisticated before implementing and have budgets and business cases created to help demonstrate the value of individual channels. 

In this blog post, we’ll provide a framework for evaluating attribution tools, cover the top players in the market, and discuss which tools might be best for you based on your role, company size, and objective. 

How to evaluate attribution tools

When evaluating an attribution tool, we tend to think about two primary criteria: first, how many integrations the attribution tool has natively; second, how many devices the tool covers, ranging from mobile only to full suite (mobile, desktop, and offline). Of course, you’ll also consider cost and ease of implementation. Depending on how intuitive it is to use, the attribution tracking 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 and how seamlessly various tool integrate with your existing ad tracking vendors. 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. 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. 

We’ll also explore how many monthly visits or how much budgeted ad spend would likely justify the additional cost of an attribution tool to ensure the “juice is worth the squeeze”.  To keep the selection pool somewhat narrow and simplified, we will only cover some of the top industry players and Segment integration partners in this post. 

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 

  • Role: VP Marketing, Head of Growth

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

  • Monthly Active Users: Can support relatively low volumes.  

  • Industry: Travel, Gaming, Music, Finance, eComm, Agencies, Subscription

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. It determines which campaigns, partners, and channels delivered each app install, enabling its users to optimize marketing performance across user acquisition and retargeting campaigns. 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

  • Role: Performance Marketer, Growth Marketer

  • Company Size: Based on marketing spend, at least $1M per year

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

  • Industry: Gaming, Travel, Retail, Agencies, B2C

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 that spend to specific users or accounts, then tracks ROI from those over time. It spreads credit across all sources, including ad platforms, social channels and organic.

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

  • Role: Performance Marketer or Director of Analytics

  • Company Size: Mostly SMBs and Startups

  • Monthly Active Users: Can support relatively low volumes  

  • Industry: eCommerce, SaaS

Branch Metrics

Branch supports cross-channel attribution with contextual deep links that stitch together fragmented identifiers across web and app. Branch supports cross-platform measurement for all organic and paid channels so marketers can have full-funnel measurement based on stage, tag, campaign or feature. Branch integrates with ad networks, email service providers, and analytics/marketing tools allowing you to send in-app content to users and track interactions with that content accurately.

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 

  • Role: Growth Marketer or Director of Analytics

  • Company Size: Startup, Mid-market and Enterprise

  • Monthly Active Users: Any

  • Industry: Service, e-commerce

Kochava 

Kochava’s Unified Audience Platform focuses on mobile attribution, analytics, and data management platform (DMP) all in one. 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

  • Role: VP Marketing, Head of Growth

  • Company Size: All sizes

  • Monthly Active Users: 5K+

  • Industry: Travel, Gaming, Music, Finance, eCommerce, Agencies, Subscription

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. 

  • Role: Mobile Engagement, Performance Marketing

  • Company Size: All sizes

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

  • Industry: Travel industry and other B2C verticals

Singular

Singular is the marketing intelligence platform that unifies marketing campaign data and attribution data in a single dashboard. With over 2,000 integrations globally, partner relationships with all the major ad networks, and almost half of the top 200 grossing apps as customers, Singular’s scale unlocks intelligent insights for growth marketers, who currently optimize more than $10B in annual ad spend on the platform.

Functionality:

  • Mobile attribution

  • Mobile and web cost aggregation

  • Normalized and standardized campaign analytics

  • 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

  • Role: Entire marketing team from UA manager to CMO, BI team, Finance

  • Media sources: Five and up

  • Industry: Gaming, Media, Travel, Retail, Music, Finance, Productivity

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:

  • Mobile attribution and event tracking

  • Link new and existing users to in-app content

  • Turnkey incentivized referral program

  • Custom landing pages for app installs

Tune 

Tune connects marketing ad spend to measurable outcomes. Tune covers organic installs, helps optimize ad spend and in-app marketing.  It automates deep-linked push notifications and in-app messaging to custom user segments based around in-app behavior, demographics, and location. Tune supports a drag-and-drop dashboard, so marketers can create data visualizations and view hundreds of reports.  

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

  • Industry: Travel, Gaming, Music, Finance, eComm, Agencies, Subscription

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. 

  • Role: Performance Marketer, Growth Marketer

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

  • Monthly Active Users: 10K+

  • Industry: Retail, B2C

Conclusion

As you can see, many attribution platforms are well-suited to deliver cross-channel attribution. If you’re interested in exploring an attribution tool, you might want to look into Segment. We make it easier for you to try attribution tools, analytics, and optimization tools. Instead of integrating each SDK one by one, you can collect customer interaction data with our API, integrate one SDK, and then flip a switch to integrate new tools. (Note: mobile-only attribution tools require their SDKs to be loaded, which requires usage of our device mode integration and resubmission to the app store).

Most importantly, Segment makes it easy for you to propagate the attribution information provided by our partners across your entire customer stack — when a partner like TUNE or Branch Metrics notices that a given session, install, or event can be attributed to a given campaign, Segment can take that context and forward it to all of your connected Destinations.

We currently offer most of these attribution tools on our platform (check our full list of integrations here). To get started with Segment, you can create a free account here or sign up for a premium, business account demo here.