Why you’re struggling to attribute your ecommerce sales correctly

Last updated: July 16, 2023

Aaron Rudman-Hawkins

Aaron Rudman-Hawkins is a dynamic digital marketing expert and a driving force behind The Evergreen Agency's success. With a passion for technology and a deep understanding of the ever-evolving digital landscape, Aaron has become a trusted name in the industry.

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I’m very aware of the struggle brands are facing right now when it comes to attributing sales across the various marketing channels.

In this Ask Aaron video, I’m going to try to help understand what’s going on, and the solution to this. Let’s dive into:

– The Google/Meta credit war
– Data driven conversions
– Touch points and conversion windows
– Privacy Issues
– GA4 improvements
– Consistent set-ups
– Double tracking
– Data sources

The attribution conundrum

In the rapidly evolving landscape of ecommerce, many brands are encountering a common hurdle; An inability to accurately attributing sales to specific marketing channels.

With a multitude of platforms vying for credit, and a number of ever-changing conversion attribution methods, it’s no wonder that the waters have become muddied for so many brands.

Here’s a concise breakdown of why attribution distribution has become so complicated:

Diverse marketing channels: With ecommerce brands now able to leverage such an array of marketing channels, each platform wants a slice of the attribution pie. This includes all organic marketing channels as well as various ad platforms including  Google, Bing, and Meta (formerly known as Facebook).

Conversion attribution changes: Over time, conversion attribution methods have morphed, which has only added to the confusion. In the past, brands often favoured a “last click” attribution, crediting the most recent touchpoint for a sale. However, recent changes in platforms like Google, Bing, and Meta have shaken up these conventions.

Multiple touchpoints: Today’s consumers are continuously bombarded with ads, meaning that customers are interacting with a brand through multiple touchpoints. Rarely does a purchase occur without encountering a brand across different platforms and touchpoints. This complicates the task of assigning credit to a single channel.

Varied consideration times: The time it takes for a customer to make a ‘purchase decision’ can vary greatly depending on the type of product they are buying. Some items may be impulse buys, while others involve weeks of research and consideration before the final purchase.

Differing conversion windows: Various ad platforms operate with distinct conversion windows, which range from a few days to several weeks. These windows affect how the credit for a sale is assigned, which adds yet another layer of complexity.

Privacy concerns: Privacy changes in recent years have also impacted the effectiveness of tracking tools like Google Analytics. This has led to an increase in “direct” traffic, as Google Analytics struggles to accurately attribute these sources.

Unveiling the solution

Now that we’ve dissected the attribution puzzle, let’s explore actionable steps to address this challenge, so you can pave the way for more accurate sales attribution for your brand.

  1. Embrace GA4: 

The rollout of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) offers a beacon of hope. This updated version is designed to overcome many of the limitations seen in previous versions, offering more accurate attribution insights.

  1. Data-Driven Attribution:

Platforms like Google Ads are shifting towards a data-driven attribution model, which means that algorithms take the responsibility of attributing conversions based on user interactions various touchpoints.

  1. Consistent Conversion Windows: 

Ensure consistent conversion windows across all platforms. Align these windows with your business’s buying cycle to reflect accurate attribution.

  1. Double-Check Tracking Setup: 

Avoid double tracking or tracking the wrong metrics. You can do this by taking the time to set up tracking correctly, preventing skewed attribution data, which inevitably leads to inaccurate insights.

  1. Spreadsheet Tracking: 

Create a centralised dashboard or spreadsheet to track data from various sources, including Google Analytics, Google Ads, Meta Ads, and your ecommerce platform. Be sure to include actual revenue data from your ecommerce platform, as well, for a more accurate overview.

  1. Prioritise Actual Revenue: 

Ultimately, the most accurate data comes from your ecommerce platform’s revenue figures. Focus on aligning other attribution data as closely as possible to this ground truth.

  1. Seek Professional Help: 

If the attribution puzzle remains unsolved, consider bringing in experts or agencies that specialise in ecommerce attribution. Their experience can provide invaluable insights and strategies to refine your attribution process.

Remember, you’re not alone in this struggle – many brands are facing similar challenges. With persistence, accurate attribution is within reach, allowing you to grow your brand while navigating the attribution maze.


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