Attribution-Based Commissions: Death To “Last Click Wins” – By Vanessa St-Amand

by Jenae Reid on July 27, 2018

You’re driving down the highway, and hear a radio commercial about a new Japanese restaurant that has recently been named #1 for sushi. About half an hour later, you see a billboard that says that same restaurant is two miles away. Feeling hungry, you decide to take the exit.

As you get closer to the new Japanese restaurant, you notice a spinning sign holder offering a free appetizer with an entree. You’re sold! You walk in and ask about the free appetizer with entree promotion.

From a macro perspective, the restaurant manager might assume the free appetizer was the sole deciding factor when you chose to dine at the new Japanese restaurant, and choose to put more of the marketing budget into that promotion.

In actuality, the radio commercial, billboard, and free appetizer commercial all played a part in delivering you to the restaurant, and funds should be allocated appropriately to repeat this outcome with other potential customers. This is attribution.

In affiliate marketing, the archaic rule of “last click wins” is on its last leg, and for a very good reason. It’s rare that only one affiliate or marketing touch point is the sole driving force for a customer conversion. A blog or review site may be the touch that educates and influences a customer to purchase, but ends up being displaced as the last click by a coupon or deal site, and therefore doesn’t receive any credit or compensation.

The “spirit” of any affiliate program must be to reward value, incentivizing further promotion while safeguarding against competitors. Attribution-based commission is the method of compensating affiliates based on their position within the sales funnel, and with an attribution-based commission structure, affiliates will be rewarded properly for their contribution, beyond just the last click.

Many affiliate networks have enhanced their technology to offer the ability to compensate affiliates based on where they fall in the sales funnel. Two examples are ShareASale and AvantLink, both of which provide proprietary technology that allows for attribution-based commissioning.

If your network doesn’t offer this feature, you may be sabotaging your affiliate program by only compensating affiliates at the end of the marketing funnel – causing the top of the funnel affiliates to abandon your program or avoid your program altogether.

If your network doesn’t offer attribution measurement, we recommend looking at Google Analytics to make data-driven decisions. Specifically, leverage the “Top Conversion Paths” report and the “Model Comparison Tool” to get the insights you need to make informed decisions about your affiliate program.

Customers are likely to encounter an affiliate who contributes to behavior you deem valuable long before they complete the purchase, so it’s important to recognize the role these affiliates play and attribute and reward them in kind.

Luckily, with current technology, tools, and strategies, it’s easier to do just that. So grab a shovel, because it’s time to bury the “last click wins” model and put it to rest.


Vanessa St-Amand is the Sr. Copywriter & Digital Engagement Manager at

 This article appeared in issue 43 of FeedFront Magazine, which was published in July 2018.

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