Two weeks ago I bought an Apple Watch. Here's how it happened…

I was browsing my favorite website one day and saw an ad for an "Apple Watch."

I was totally unfamiliar with the Apple brand and had never heard of their watch, so I clicked the ad purely out of curiosity.

I landed on a page that immediately sold me on the idea of smart watches in general, and the Apple Watch in particular. I bought it then and there.

It was about 6 minutes from the moment I saw that ad to the moment I clicked "Submit order" on Apple's website.

Except it didn't happen that way.

No purchase decision ever happens that way.

In reality I've seen thousands of Apple ads, read hundreds of articles about Apple products, watched a few Apple keynotes, talked to friends about their Apple products, demoed products in the store, read tech specs, purchased an iPod, then another iPod, then another iPod, then an iPhone, then a laptop, and on and on.

I had been casually reading articles, noticing ads, and researching smart watches for a solid year before I finally pulled the trigger on the Apple.

Which one of those interactions was the one that mattered? Which one influenced me to make the purchase?

It's impossible to say. And even if we could, it probably would be a combination of lots of different touchpoints with the brand.

But most digital advertising and and analytics platforms use a "last click attribution" model. That means no matter how long that purchase journey is or how many touchpoints there are, the last trackable activity in the chain gets 100% of the credit for a lead or sale.

If the last thing I did in my Apple Watch purchase path was click a paid search ad, that conversion gets entirely attributed to paid search and my 14-year history with the brand and it's advertising is entirely discounted.

This is certainly better than no attribution at all, but the downside is that it can leave you stuck in a direct response only advertising strategy, only willing to spend on advertising if you're able to tie it directly to a conversion using the standard last click attribution model.

That severely limits growth potential because it limits your advertising efforts to those that are directly measureable and often results is companies taking a direct response only strategy.

Some companies do fine with direct response only, but most will either severely limit their results or not get any apparent results at all, concluding that advertising doesn't work for them.

So what's the solution?

The first step is just to remember that few purchase paths only have one touchpoint and they're almost never a straight line. Be aware that what you're measuring with last click is only a snapshot of the last action your customer took before converting.

Second, don't get stuck in a direct response only strategy. Measuring conversions by last click is a great starting point, but if you don't find other ways to measure success you'll severely limit your reach and results.

Test other channels like video, audio, display, TV, etc, and figure out ways to measure the impact. It is possible.

Third, if your sales happen offline, try to tie your advertising efforts to actual changes in sales and revenue. It's not easy but it can be done.