Demystifying View-Through and Click-Through Attribution Models

Get the 411 on view-through and click-through attribution models and which one you should use.
Updated on March 20, 2024

Your retargeting campaigns are all about generating return on investment (ROI). But how should you go about measuring that return? That’s where attribution models come in.

Two of the most common attribution models are view-through and click-through.

In a view-through attribution model, your retargeting campaign takes credit for a conversion after a user and an ad show up on the same page, the user “sees” the ad (or so we assume), and they ultimately make a purchase.

In a click-through attribution model, your retargeting campaign takes credit for a conversion after a user and an ad show up on the same page, the user clicks the ad, and they eventually make a purchase.

In this article, we’ll discuss the chief differences between click-through and view-through attribution, and when you might want to use one over the other.

The 411 on View-Through Attribution

View-through attribution measures how many people saw an ad (i.e. impressions) and then converted as a result.

Suppose you sell fitness gear and develop an ad for a rowing machine. Over the course of a week, that ad generates 5,000 impressions. Within a seven-day window, 120 people buy the rowing machine you advertised. The ad was served to each of them at least once during the weekly campaign, but none of them necessarily clicked on the ad.

To credit an ad impression for a sale, both must happen within a certain time frame. If Brian saw an ad for your rowing machine today, and then bought that rowing machine a year from now, you wouldn’t count that sale toward that first view. If Brian purchased within a few days, you could reasonably say that the ad had an impact on his purchasing decision.

Tapping into Click-Through Attribution

Click-through attribution credits a sale to an ad only when someone purchases after clicking on that ad.

Let’s revisit the rowing machine. If Brian clicks on your ad and then buys the rowing machine, that ad would receive the credit for the sale. All of the other ad impressions the customer may have seen would not, and with the right vendor (charging you on a CPC) those other impressions would be free.

One of the advantages of click-through attribution is that it’s a more straightforward indicator of engagement. Whenever someone clicks on an ad, you’re registering a specific action. You can more clearly assume that something about that ad enticed the customer to return and buy.

Which makes the most sense for you? It depends…

Both attribution models can serve you well in the right situation, but neither is complete enough to be the only model you’ll use. It falls on ecommerce marketers and their technology partners to understand how their campaign goals will dictate which model to use.

When it comes to retargeting campaigns, click-through attribution provides a clear indication of an ad’s impact on the final sale. With view-through attribution, sales for a product that you advertised may increase during the associated ad campaign, but seeing an ad doesn’t indicate purchase intent as much as clicks to sales.

While impressions do play a role in the buyer’s journey, relying too heavily on them may inflate the impact those impressions had on conversions. As a result, you may shift more marketing budget toward retargeting, when really, it could have been other marketing initiatives that encouraged those conversions.

Today, the purchasing journey is more pretzel-shaped than ever. People don’t engage with brands only once, directly through a website — they interact in roundabout ways via social media, mobile apps, and other on and offline mediums. Advertisers should use attribution models that accurately weigh a consumer’s interactions across multiple platforms and devices.

Until multi-touchpoint attribution models can be implemented widely, ecommerce marketers must align attribution with the goals of specific technologies and campaigns. .

Find more retargeting information here.Get Started with the Criteo Ad Platform

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