What Lies Between The First Click And The Last Click? Nobody Knows

Like email marketers and most other digital players, retailers that are active in social media find attribution to be a headache. 

Two-thirds rely on the first click or the last click, with 33% choosing the former and 34% relying on the latter, according to Embracing Social Commerce, a study by WBR Insights conducted for shopping platform Slickdeals.

Another 31% measure time decay, described in the study as an “algorithm-based method for measuring how long social media content lasts.”

Only 1% rely on linear attribution, which entails dividing assignments among all interactions a viewer has had with the content. And 1% use position-based attribution, which “splits assignment between the first interaction and conversion,” the study notes. 

No wonder the the report refers to attribution as “a fraught question.”

Social media marketers who focus only on the last click are getting a very limited view of channel contributions, including those made by email. Last click attribution tells you nothing about the customer journey.



Email may move the person along, or even drive the conversion. There is more to a retail sale than impressions on social media.

And while first-click measurement seems equally limited, Slickdeals seems to support the idea.

Firms that invest more heavily in social commerce tend to “look more at first click versus last click attribution, given that a consumer's first click represents the beginning of their overall engagement with a brand and, thereby, the most meaningful step in the customer journey,” states Tom Straszewski, senior vice president, sales and business development at Slickdeals.

WBR Insights surveyed 200 retail marketers that are active in social media, 62% of which have annual revenue of more than $500 million.

Of the firms represented, 89% are using social commerce, implementing it now or planning to do so within 24 months. And 75% are increasing their social media investments within the next 12 months.

In addition, 50% are trying to align social media with their overall marketing strategy. But they face serious challenges, including:

  • Developing a meaningful customer engagement strategy that will receive internal approval — 44%
  • Leveraging unstructured data to learn more about customer’ personal values, goals, and others — 41%
  • Building a reputation consumers recognize and trust — 38%
  • Adopting machine learning and/or AI that could help us analyze data for the purpose of building a meaningful customer relationships — 38%
  • Identifying the customer segments most likely to engage with our brand in a meaningful way — 35%
  • Fostering long-term communities that generate emotional connections — 33%
  • Launching engagement and social campaigns that have a personal impact on consumers — 30%

Despite these hurdles, 73% say they have created emotional bonds with their customers. The remainder have not.

Instagram is the preferred social platform, cited by 92%. Next are Facebook (77%), Twitter (57%), and Pinterest (47%). 

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