Last Updated: January 3, 2024

First Touch vs. Last Touch Attribution: Which Model Works Best for Your Business?



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Understanding the intricacies of attribution models is crucial for business success in digital marketing. This article delves into the nuances of first-touch and last-touch attribution, aiming to educate readers on their differences and assist in identifying the most suitable model for their specific marketing strategies and goals.


Attribution models are essential for marketers because they can accurately track and attribute customer interactions to specific marketing efforts. Attribution modeling stands at the core of this endeavor, enabling marketers and business owners to understand which touchpoints are most effective in driving conversions. 

In this context, two prevalent models, first-touch and last-touch attribution, offer contrasting perspectives on customer engagement and conversion. First-touch attribution highlights the importance of initial customer engagement, crediting the first interaction for subsequent conversions. In contrast, last-touch attribution emphasizes the final interaction before a conversion, often used to gauge the effectiveness of closing strategies.

A honeycomb design describing important aspects of marketing attribution.

We will delve into the mechanics of first-touch and last-touch attribution, discuss their advantages and drawbacks, and offer insights into their best applications. By understanding these models, marketers and business owners can make more informed decisions about their strategies, ensuring that their marketing efforts are aligned with their business goals and resonating effectively with their target audiences.

What is First-Touch Attribution?

First-touch attribution is a model in digital marketing where the very first interaction a customer has with a brand is credited for any subsequent conversion. This model operates on the principle that the initial touchpoint, whether a click on a search ad, a social media post, or an email campaign, plays the most crucial role in initiating the customer’s journey toward a purchase. In essence, first-touch attribution emphasizes the importance of that initial engagement in raising awareness and sparking interest in the brand or product.

Pros and Cons of First-Touch Attribution

The benefits of first-touch attribution may include: 

  • Simplicity and Clarity: First-touch attribution is straightforward to track and understand. It provides clear insights into which marketing channels are most effective at generating initial interest.
  • Optimizing Awareness Campaigns: For businesses focusing on expanding their reach and building brand awareness, this model is particularly beneficial. It helps in identifying which channels are best at attracting new customers.
  • Budget Allocation: It aids in making informed decisions about where to allocate marketing budgets, especially in the early stages of campaign planning.

Along with benefits come potential drawbacks. Marketers should be aware of the following challenges that can occur with first-touch:

  • Oversimplification: This model often overlooks the complexity of the customer journey. It ignores the multiple touchpoints a customer might encounter before making a purchase.
  • Not Conversion-Focused: It doesn’t necessarily reflect the effectiveness of a marketing channel in driving conversions, as it only accounts for the beginning of the customer journey.
  • Changing Customer Behaviors: In the digital age, where customers interact with brands through various channels before making a decision, relying solely on first-touch attribution can lead to misguided marketing strategies.

A graph attributing the first-touch attribution model, showing all credit to the first touch.

Exploring Last-Touch Attribution

Last-touch attribution assigns the full credit for a customer’s conversion to the final touchpoint they had with a brand before making a purchase or completing a desired action. This model is grounded in the belief that the last interaction is the most decisive in the customer’s decision-making process. Whether clicking on a targeted ad, visiting a website from a search result, or engaging with a promotional email, the last touchpoint is the key influencer that drives the conversion.

Pros and Cons of Last-Touch Attribution

Check out the following advantages of Implementing Last-Touch Attribution:

  • Focus on Conversion: Last-touch attribution is valuable for businesses prioritizing conversion optimization. It highlights the channels and strategies that are most effective in closing a sale or driving a specific action.
  • Ease of Measurement: Similar to first-touch, it offers simplicity in tracking and analysis, making it accessible even for businesses with limited analytics capabilities.
  • Optimizing Sales Tactics: By understanding which touchpoints convert leads into customers, companies can refine their sales strategies and allocate resources more effectively to the most successful channels.

Now, let’s explore the drawbacks and potential limitations of last-touch: 

  • Neglecting the Full Journey: This model often overlooks the various interactions a customer may have had prior to the final touchpoint, potentially undervaluing the importance of early-stage marketing efforts.
  • Misleading Insights: Sole reliance on last-touch attribution can lead to skewed insights, especially in complex customer journeys where multiple interactions across different channels play a role in the decision-making process.
  • Inadequate for Long Sales Cycles: In industries with longer sales cycles involving multiple touchpoints and considerations, last-touch attribution might not accurately capture the effectiveness of early engagement strategies.

A graph showing the last-touch attribution model, giving all credit to the last touchpoint.

First vs. Last Touch Model

Choosing the right attribution model in digital marketing can often be challenging for marketers. This complexity arises from the need to balance accuracy with simplicity while striving to align their business’s specific goals and customer journey nuances. 


  • First-Touch Attribution: This model tends to oversimplify the customer journey, often ignoring the various interactions that occur after the first engagement. While it accurately identifies the initial touchpoint that brought a customer into the sales funnel, it does not always reflect the complexity of the entire purchasing process.
  • Last-Touch Attribution: Similar to first-touch, last-touch attribution can misrepresent the customer’s journey by solely focusing on the final interaction. It accurately pinpoints the conversion-driving touchpoint but often overlooks the cumulative effect of earlier engagements.


  • First-Touch Attribution: Highly straightforward and easy to implement. It provides a clear starting point for analyzing marketing effectiveness, making it suitable for businesses with limited analytics resources.
  • Last-Touch Attribution: Equally simple to track and interpret. Its focus on the last interaction before a conversion makes it an accessible model for businesses looking to understand and optimize their closing strategies.

Data Requirements

  • First-Touch Attribution: Requires minimal data; primarily the source of the first interaction. It’s less demanding regarding tracking and data analysis, making it a good option for businesses with basic tracking setups.
  • Last-Touch Attribution: Also has low data requirements, focusing mainly on the final interaction before conversion. It’s ideal for companies that want straightforward insights without deep data analysis.

A customer journey funnel displaying awareness, consideration, and conversions.

Applicability to Different Business Types

  • First-Touch Attribution: Best suited for businesses focusing on brand awareness and customer acquisition. It’s particularly effective for companies investing heavily in top-of-the-funnel marketing activities like content marketing, social media, and SEO.
  • Last-Touch Attribution: More applicable for businesses that are conversion-focused, such as e-commerce platforms or companies with a strong emphasis on direct response marketing. It’s beneficial for evaluating the effectiveness of sales and closing tactics.

Which One to Choose?

The choice between first-touch and last-touch attribution models plays a crucial role in shaping these decisions. Each model offers a distinct perspective on customer interactions and influences marketing strategies differently. 

Influence of Each Model on Marketing Campaigns

  • First-Touch Attribution: Utilizing this model can lead marketing teams to prioritize strategies that excel in generating initial awareness and attracting new leads. It influences decisions to invest in channels and campaigns that effectively introduce potential customers to the brand.
  • Last-Touch Attribution: This model steers decision-making towards optimizing the final stages of the customer journey. It emphasizes the importance of refining the tactics that convert leads into customers, such as retargeting ads, email marketing, and other direct engagement strategies.

Guidelines for Model Selection

If the primary objective of your brand is to grow brand awareness or reach a broader audience, first-touch attribution may be more relevant. Conversely, if the focus is on boosting sales and conversions, last-touch attribution might be the better choice.

It’s also important to reflect on whether the strategies are designed to initiate customer interest or close sales. Choose the model that aligns with these strategies. With that in mind, last-touch model may work better for businesses with a simple, direct sales process. 

However, for those with a longer, more complex sales cycle, first-touch could provide valuable insights at the initial stages. Along with those factors, it’s also essential to assess the business’s data collection and analysis capabilities. If resources are limited, simpler models like first-touch or last-touch might be more feasible than a more complicated attribution model.

Combining Strengths of Both Models

Adopting a strategic approach in selecting and combining different attribution models can significantly enhance the effectiveness of marketing decision-making. By aligning the choice of model with specific business needs and goals, marketers can optimize their campaigns to achieve desired outcomes more efficiently. If you want to integrate the two models to create a more holistic view, you may want to employ the following techniques: 

  • Blended Approach: Employing a blended approach that incorporates insights from both first-touch and last-touch attribution can offer a more rounded view of the customer journey. This can help understand how customers are introduced to the brand and what drives them to convert.
  • Sequential Analysis: Use first-touch attribution to optimize marketing efforts geared toward customer acquisition and brand awareness. Then, apply last-touch attribution to refine strategies that convert these leads into customers.
  • Leveraging Data for Comprehensive Insights: With advanced analytics tools, businesses can track multiple touchpoints. They can also combine the strengths of both models to get a clearer picture of their marketing performance across the entire customer journey.

An infographic describing which factors are tracked with marketing attribution software.


In conclusion, navigating the complexities of first-touch and last-touch attribution models is essential for effective marketing strategy formulation and execution. Each model offers unique insights that can significantly influence the direction and effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. 

To streamline this process, consider using Growify Attribution Software. Growify offers intuitive tools to manage and analyze your attribution models seamlessly, providing clear, actionable data to optimize your campaigns. Embrace the power of precise attribution with Growify and elevate your marketing efforts to new heights. Discover how Growify can transform your attribution approach by exploring its features today.

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