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Triple Whale vs. Northbeam 🥊

Head West Team
Updated April 23, 2024
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Lots has been written comparing Triple Whale to Northbeam. The two are so often referred together that people find themselves accidentally saying Triple Beam or North Whale. We're definitely guilty of this 😂. This battle heated up on DTC Twitter so much that people refer to it as the Great Conversion Wars of 2022. Both tools have rabid fans (and paid promoters) who will come out with pitchforks in favor of one tool or the other. As with all our guides, we’ll try to separate fact from fiction / emotion when comparing the two options. We’ll break down the pros and cons of each, and give our advice on which we think is better and for who. So without further ado let’s dive into it.

💡 Our take: Triple Whale is the more user friendly platform that pulls data into a single place and offers an easily understandable attribution tool geared towards small and medium size eCommerce companies. Northbeam is a more advanced tool more singularly focused on attribution that will be better for larger companies with dedicated data and media buying teams. There’s a ton of nuance which we’ll discuss below, but that’s our high level take.

Triple Whale is best for:

  • Founder operators
  • Those looking for the most user friendly platform
  • Brands between $10-40M in sales

👉 Check out Triple Whale here

Northbeam is best for:

  • Media buyers & data teams
  • $40M+ annual revenue

👉 Check out Northbeam here

Why consider a third-party attribution tool?

It’s important to first consider whether you even need a third-party attribution tool at all. The advertising platforms like Meta and TikTok have many more engineers and data scientists than the third-party attribution companies do, and some think it’s pure hubris to believe that third-party attribution tools could ever give you better answers than the in-platform data. It’s a compelling argument, but we think there are benefits to a third-party tool.

First, the in-platform pixels only see what happens with their channel and your website. For example, if a customer sees a TikTok ad and an Instagram ad and then purchases, both channels will take credit for the sale. The reality is that both channels contributed to the sale but in different ways. Neither Meta or TikTok have the data to know that the customer saw both ads. With a third-party attribution you will have that data. The platforms themselves are also eager to take credit for the sale because it will make their performance look better and will encourage you to spend more on their platforms. A third-party tool can be a check against the platform data which will bias towards getting you to spend more (over attribution).

Second, third-party attribution is able to tie ad clicks to customer orders. This way you can see ad performance for new vs returning customers. You can calculate metrics like nCPA (new customer CPA) that wouldn’t be possible in-platform. These metrics can be insightful in helping to make budget allocation decisions and better understand the true performance of your business.

Finally, third-party attribution tools will have the ability to show longer attribution windows (essentially for the entire time the attribution software was installed). This compares to a 2-day attribution window for TikTok, a 7-day window for Meta, and a 90-day window for Google. By extending the attribution window, you can better understand purchase journeys with more consideration time.

All this is great, but before you drink the third-party attribution Kool Aid consider whether you will benefit from third-party attribution. 

Third-party attribution won’t really be useful for certain types of businesses. If your business falls in any of these categories, then third-party attribution won’t benefit you much:

  • Sub $10M in annual revenue
  • Short consideration window (3-5 days) - impulse purchase products
  • Single advertising channel or 1-3 advertising channels 
  • Mostly organic traffic

For these brands, we think in-platform metrics will be fine in helping drive decision making. This isn’t to say other parts of the Triple Whale offering won't be useful for you, but if you are buying it mainly for its attribution capabilities then we don’t recommend it if your brand falls into any of the above categories.

You should also be honest with yourself about whether you or your team have the capacity to act on the insights. When it comes to data there is a big difference between interesting and actionable.

“Data is like garbage. You better know what you’re going to do with it before you collect it.” - Mark Twain

Attribution approach

One key difference when comparing the two tools is their approach to attribution. Triple Whale has 7 different attribution models and Northbeam has 6, but for this comparison we’re going to focus on the main attribution model for each company.

Triple Whale’s main attribution model will more closely tie to in-platform numbers. This is because their attribution methodology more closely follows the platform’s attribution methodology. This is great because it doesn’t require someone to learn and trust a new attribution method. If you understand the platform methods, you will understand the Triple Whale method. It also makes comparison between the Triple Whale and in-platform numbers easier. If the in-platform campaign ROAS is 2.6 and Triple Whale ROAS is 2.2, it’s easy to see that Triple Whale thinks the campaign is performing slightly worse than the platform does. This is one reason Triple Whale is popular among eCommerce owner operators because there is less of a learning curve.

Northbeam’s primary approach is different. Northbeam will take all of your sales and assign credit to each channel in a way that will never sum to more than your sales. For example, for one order, TikTok might get 0.6 credit, Facebook might get 0.3, and Snapchat will get 0.1. This solves for the ‘over attribution’ of the in-platform methodologies (if you sum the orders that each platform takes credit for, you will have many more orders than you actually see on Shopify). However, this approach requires you to learn and get comfortable with their methodology. It will be more difficult to compare the Northbeam model’s numbers to the in-platform numbers. So while some will argue that this is the more intellectually honest approach, there will be a learning curve. For this reason, Northbeam is often more appealing for companies with strong data teams in place.

Tracking method

Both Triple Whale and Northbeam have pixels that are added to your website in a similar way. These pixels are akin to the in-platform pixels you place on your site. With Triple Whale or Northbeam's pixels installed you send website and conversion data back to the attribution tools. One important difference is that with Northbeam there is an added step of updating your website's DNS records to send additional data to Northbeam. This additional step gives Northbeam an edge in their ability to track users across multiple sessions.

Which type of customer is each tool best for?

The first consideration is whether or not your business is on Shopify. If it isn’t on Shopify, then Triple Whale won’t be for you because it is only for Shopify businesses. Northbeam can support both Shopify customers and those on other platforms (e.g., WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Magento, custom builds etc.). 

Triple Whale is often regarded as a tool for small and medium size businesses. This isn’t 100% true as we see a good number of enterprise brands using and loving the tool. We do think it is more user friendly than Northbeam, and it is priced more cheaply than Northbeam, so we see those as good reasons for smaller brands to pick Triple Whale over Northbeam.

Northbeam’s pricing starts at $1,000 per month, and they don’t offer a free plan. This is the first indication that they are targeted at more enterprise size customers. As mentioned above, Northbeam’s approach to attribution is also targeted at more data savvy users (data teams and heads of growth). This will benefit users and teams that know what they are looking for but will likely be less intuitive for founder operators. 

Our simple rubric is that Triple Whale is best for brands from $10-40M in sales and Northbeam is best for $40M+ brands.

Triple Whale's Unique offerings

Free dashboard

This is the product that started it all for Triple Whale. It’s free and pulls data from Shopify, Meta (Facebook), your website, and email into a single view of your business performance. It gives high level performance metrics for each channel. Instead of checking 4+ tabs to get an understanding of how the business is performing, you can check a single dashboard. We think this is a great tool for all brands.

Post purchase survey

Triple Whale has a simple one question post purchase survey that’s available on their free plan and a more in depth (up to 7 question) post purchase survey available on their paid plans. Post purchase surveys are a great way to triangulate platform data against customer feedback.

Inventory data

Unlike Northbeam, Triple Whale pulls in inventory data from Shopify. This can be used to flag ads that are running for products that are low in inventory. You can also use it to identify ads which sell products that have excess inventory. For example if you purchased too many yellow sweaters you could identify the ads which lead to the most yellow sweater sales and run those to sell through excess inventory.

Northbeam's unique offerings

MMM

Northbeam has a media mix modeling (MMM) tool that competes with Measured (a more pure play MMM). Triple Whale does not have a similar offering. Northbeam’s approach uses modeled data (as opposed to holdout tests), so the idea is that with Northbeam’s offering media buyers can make more real time decisions rather than waiting for the results of holdout tests. 

Triple Whale vs Northbeam Pricing 💰

Triple Whale’s pricing is based on revenue, whereas Northbeam’s pricing is based on pageviews. This is an important consideration for companies especially those with either very high or very low AOV products. For high AOV products (e.g., E-bikes) where fewer page views lead to higher sales, then Northbeam’s product will likely be cheaper. For low AOV products (e.g., socks) where lots of pageviews lead to fewer sales, then Triple Whales product will likely be cheaper.

Triple Whale offers a free dashboard, but Northbeam does not have any free offering.

Triple Whales pricing starts at $129 per month ($108 when billed annually), and Northbeam’s pricing starts at $1,000 per month.

In most cases, aside from the very high and very low AOV edge cases mentioned above, Triple Whale will be the cheaper of the two platforms.

👉 Triple Whale's pricing

👉 Northbeam's pricing

Northbeam and Triple Whale Alternatives

Multi Touch Attribution (MTA)

Rockerbox

Hyros

Cometly

ThoughtMetric

Free the Pixel (Socioh)

Lifetime Value (LTV) Analysis

Lifetimely

Creative Performance Analysis

Motion

Business Intelligence (Dashboarding & stitching together multiple data sources)

Source Medium

Peel

Daasity

Glew

RetentionX

Polar

Google Analytics

Looker

Tydo

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