Ultimate Guide To U Shaped Attribution Model [+Example] - TrueProfit

Ultimate Guide To U Shaped Attribution Model [+Example]

Marketing is increasingly turning to U-shaped attribution due to its many benefits. This model provides a more complete understanding of the customer journey by placing equal weight on the first and last interactions and the touchpoints in between.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the definition of U shaped attribution model, provide straightforward examples, discuss the optimal situations for its use, and look into its limitations. Join us as we unpack this powerful digital marketing tool and its intricacies.

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What Is U-Shaped Attribution Model?

U shaped attribution model is a marketing analytics technique that assigns credit to each touchpoint in a customer’s journey. It emphasizes the importance of multiple touchpoints when tracking marketing success rather than giving all the conversion credit to only one touchpoint.

In the U-shaped attribution model, more credit is given to the first and last touchpoints, with the remaining credit shared among the touchpoints in the middle. It supports you to understand which channels are most effective in boosting sales and adjusting your marketing strategy accordingly.

u shaped attribution - marketing attribution

Let’s say a customer journey consists of five touchpoints: Facebook ad, Youtube videos, e-mail newsletter, Google ad, and endorsement.

In the U-shaped attribution model, the first touchpoint (Facebook ad) and the last touchpoint (endorsement) would each receive 40% of the credit. The remaining 20% would be distributed among the middle touchpoints (Youtube ad, email newsletter, and Google ad).

This means that the social media ad and the final purchase are seen as the most critical touchpoints, while the middle touchpoints also receive some credit for contributing to the customer’s decision-making process.

Pros & Cons of U Shaped Attribution Model

U shaped attribution, as a multi-touch attribution model, has its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages that businesses should carefully consider before implementing this model in any marketing campaign.

✅ Pros❌ Cons
  • The U-shaped model offers a comprehensive view of the customer’s interaction with your brand by considering all touchpoints along the customer journey. It can support the identification of patterns and trends that can inform marketing strategies.
  • Focus on critical touchpoints (first and last touchpoints), where a prospect first becomes aware of your business and where they make the decision to convert. To do so, the U-shaped model can help marketers know which channels are most effective at generating leads and driving conversions.
  • The U-shaped model considers all touchpoints without requiring specialized data science assistance. It makes it accessible for those without a background in data science, enabling more team members to understand and utilize the insights gained from this model.
  • Overemphasizes the importance of the first and last touchpoints, leaving little credit for all other touchpoints. It can result in additional marketing efforts being overlooked and not receiving the credit they deserve.
  • For businesses with longer buying cycles, the U-shaped model may not be the best fit as it may not reflect the impact of marketing efforts spread over a more extended period.
  • For businesses with multiple marketing channels and a sophisticated customer journey, this model may give value to only some touchpoints and may not effectively measure the impact of all marketing channels involved in the conversion process.

What Is An Example of U Shaped Attribution?

Imagine you are a customer who is looking for a new winter jacket. Your interaction with the brand occurs through five different channels before you make a purchase:

  1. First, you discover the brand through a Google search ad when he was searching for “winter jackets“.
  2. A few days later, you see a sponsored post from the brand on Facebook showcasing their winter collection.
  3. You then receive an email newsletter from the brand featuring a discount on winter jackets.
  4. Later, you read a blog post about choosing the right winter jacket on the brand’s website.
  5. Finally, you see a retargeting ad on Instagram that leads him to the brand’s website, where he makes a purchase.

In this case, the U-shaped model would assign 40% of the credit to the Google search ad (the first touchpoint) and 40% to the Instagram ad (the last touchpoint). The remaining 20% would be split between the Facebook post, email newsletter, and blog post.

Example of U shaped attribution model
Example of U shaped attribution model (Source: Social Media Examiner)

This distribution of credit reflects the belief that the first and last interactions are often the most crucial parts of the customer journey. The first interaction is where you become aware of your brand, and the last is where you decide to convert.

When Should I Use The U-shaped model?

✅ Which business should use U shaped attribution model?

Companies selling lower-value items with a relatively straightforward buyer’s funnel.

If your customers generally tend to convert after only a few interactions with your business, then the first and last touchpoints are the main ones you must focus on. While interesting, the other touchpoints might be less critical for your business.

This is because customers purchasing lower-value items may require less nurturing or multiple touchpoints to make a purchase decision.

However, the U-shaped model might only suit some businesses or marketing strategies. For instance, other models might be more appropriate if your customer journey involves more than two significant touchpoints or if your buying cycle is longer than 30 to 90 days.

Which business should avoid U shaped attribution model?

Companies selling high-value goods with a long lifecycle should avoid using a U-shaped model.

This is because customers purchasing high-value goods often require more nurturing touches before they make a purchase decision. They might interact with your brand multiple times through various channels before buying.

In this case, using a U-shaped model might not accurately reflect the impact of all marketing efforts involved in the conversion process.

For example, consider a company selling luxury cars. A customer might first discover the brand at an auto show (the first touchpoint), then visit their website to learn more about their cars, read reviews on various auto blogs, receive personalized email newsletters from the brand, and finally make a purchase after having a test drive (the last touchpoint).

In this example, using a U-shaped model would not give enough credit to all the nurturing touches that were crucial in influencing the customer’s decision.

While the U-shaped attribution model can provide valuable insights into your marketing efforts, it’s essential to consider these factors when deciding if it’s the right fit for your business.

What Are The Limitations of A U-shaped Model?

One of the biggest challenges is applying it when multiple touchpoints are involved in a purchase decision. Tracking all these points and assigning credit with this model can be challenging, which is why the last-click model is often favored.

However, we shouldn’t choose a more straightforward model because it’s easier to track. Modern digital customer journeys are complex and require an algorithm-based model that can account for all the complexity of the buyer’s journey.

In fact, by relying solely on the top and bottom of the funnel, the U-shaped model can oversimplify the conversion path and fail to provide a complete picture of the customer journey.

It ignores the crucial impact of middle awareness-building touchpoints like social media or SEO on lead generation. Brands that want to succeed long-term must consider all the touchpoints contributing to a conversion.

So, while the U-shaped model may benefit, there are more effective ways to track customer journeys. An algorithm-based model is a way to understand the complexity of the buyer’s journey truly (For example, Adobe Analytics can calculate and showcase analytics based on Algorithmic attribution). By doing so, brands can gain unique insights into the customer journey & make informed decisions that lead to long-term success.


The U shaped attribution model is a powerful tool for businesses seeking to optimize their marketing strategies. Attributing more credit to the first and last touchpoints highlights the importance of the initial and final interactions in the customer journey.

This model is particularly effective for businesses with straightforward buyer funnels and shorter buying cycles. However, this model may only suit some companies or marketing strategies, particularly those with complex customer journeys or longer buying cycles.

Therefore, companies must consider their specific needs and circumstances when applying the U shaped attribution model.

Discover what proper profit-tracking looks like at trueprofit.io