Marketer’s Guide to Multi-Channel Attribution (+ How to Get Started)

Katie Holmes
7th May 2021

The ability to view and analyse marketing data across all of your channels is critical for business growth. With multi-channel attribution, you can track which touchpoints generate the most value, how they relate to overall marketing ROI and make key decisions based on actionable data.

Multi-channel attribution is considered a must-have a solution for B2B marketers, and yet, not many fully understand how it works. In a recent study, 59% of marketers admitted that a lack of knowledge is the main reason why they haven’t implemented an attribution model.

Well, that is about to change.

With a better grasp of multi-channel attribution, it will become easier to identify which of your marketing initiatives are having the most significant impact on conversions and revenue.

For this article, we’ll discuss:

Editor’s Note
Budgets are getting scrutinised, and marketers are under more pressure than ever to justify their investments. With the closed-loop framework, you can easily connect revenue with marketing source data to measure your ROI and demonstrate the effectiveness of your campaigns. Download our free handbook to close the loop between your leads and revenue

What is multi-channel attribution?

Multi-channel attribution is the process of tracking marketing channels that lead to conversions or sales. It is a set of rules that allow marketers to allocate appropriate values to each marketing channel based on its contribution to the sales cycle.

One of the core benefits of multi-channel attribution is that it provides visibility into the success of each touchpoint across the entire conversion path. Multi-channel attribution helps you determine which marketing sources are most successful at generating high-quality leads, allowing you to allocate budget into the areas that have the potential to drive more revenue.

The Importance of multi-channel attribution

According to a study, 77% of digital marketers feel under pressure to meet acquisition and revenue goals more than they did a year ago. Company leaders and stakeholders alike don’t want to hear about how many conversions you’ve generated, they want to know:

Multi-channel attribution is crucial. It helps you evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing and reveals which channels are most successful at driving conversions and revenue. You can justify your marketing spend and identify where to double-down.

What are the different multi-channel attribution models?

There’s been an explosion of attribution models designed to help marketers track and analyse customers along the path-to-purchase. Marketing attribution models are frameworks that accurately identify how and where your users engage with your marketing channels before completing a conversion. When it comes to multi-channel attribution, there are several models which you can choose. To explain the most common attribution models, it helps to refer to a sample of a buyer’s journey.

1. An anonymous visitor clicks on a Google ad and downloads an eBook from your website.
2. The lead goes through an email cadence, clicks a link and returns to your site to learn more about your services.
3. Two weeks later, they visit your website using a brand search via Google organic.
4. Shortly after they click on a retargeting ad on Facebook and convert by scheduling a meeting with your sales team.

Single-touch attribution models

Single-touch attribution models assign 100% credit to a single campaign or channel. Typically, these attribution models assign conversion values to either the first or last channel a visitor interacted with before making a conversion.

First-click attribution

100% of the credit for a conversion is attributed to the very first channel that the buyer interacted with.

multi channel attribution - first click attribution -

If we refer to our example, we can see that the first-click model has attributed all of the credit to the Google ad that inspired the sales journey.

Last-click attribution

100% of the credit for a conversion is attributed to the final channel that the buyer interacted with.

multi channel attribution - last click attribution -

In the example above, we can see that the last-click model has attributed all of the credit to the retargeting ad on Facebook.

Last non-direct click

To explain this attribution model, we’ll need to change our sales journey example. 100% of the credit for a conversion is attributed to the last channel a buyer interacted with, ignoring any direct website visits involved in the journey.

multi channel attribution - last non-direct click attribution -

If we refer to our example, last non-direct click model has assigned 100% of the credit to the organic visit and ignored the direct touchpoint.

Multi-touch attribution models

Multi-touch attribution allows marketers to analyse the customer journey with more clarity. In short, multi-touch attribution models offers a more accurate understanding of how various touchpoints in the customers’ journey work together to deliver leads and conversions.

Linear attribution model

The credit for the conversion is distributed evenly across each channel a buyer interacted with throughout the entire buying journey.

multi channel attribution - linear attribution -

In our example, the linear attribution model would divide all of the credit from the sale equally across the entire conversion path.

Time Decay Multi-Channel Model

The credit from the sale is distributed to all marketing touchpoints, but the most recent touchpoints receive a higher percentage.

multi channel attribution - time decay attribution -

In our example, the time decay model would attribute the credit to all of the touchpoints with more credit going to the Facebook ad and organic search.

Position-Based Attribution Model (U-Shaped)

The first and last touchpoints both receive 40% of the credit for a conversion. The remaining 20% is spread evenly across any touchpoints in the middle of the journey.

multi channel attribution - position based attribution - ushaped attribution -

The position-based model has allocated 40% credit to the Google ad and Facebook ad. The remaining touchpoints share the remaining 20% credit.

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to multi-channel attribution, and each model comes with advantages and disadvantages. All of these attribution models will generate unique results, as they measure the importance of your touchpoints differently. The attribution model you choose will depend on the nature of the channels and campaigns you are tracking.

Editor’s Note
For more information, we have a complete guide on attribution modelling which explains the importance of each model as well as the advantages and disadvantages.

Common challenges to multi-channel attribution

Marketing attribution is a significant challenge for all B2B and non-eCommerce businesses. Successfully attributing conversions to your marketing channels can be difficult without the right strategy and tools.

In fact, it’s said that only 17% of advertisers look at the performance of all their digital channels together. Let’s take a closer look at some of the main limitations that stand in the way of effective multi-channel attribution.

Online-to-offline attribution

Despite the growth of modern technology, many consumers are still embracing traditional forms of communication, such as face-to-face and telephone conversations, to engage with brands and make key purchasing decisions. In fact, according to our conversion benchmark analysis, phone call enquiries in the automotive, dental, legal and real estate industry often outperform web forms when it comes to driving new business.

Editor’s Note
You can download the conversion benchmark analysis to discover statistics, trends and observations across 14 industries and gain valuable insights to maximise your lead quality.

Despite knowing this, marketers still lack the tools and functionality to connect online and offline touchpoints. Google Analytics does a great job of tracking the touchpoints that lead to an online conversion such as a form completion, but when a buyer enters into the offline world to make a phone call, things start to get a little fuzzy.

Google Analytics doesn’t provide call tracking. So, if you have a phone nunmber on your website, and you’re using Google Analytics exclusively, then you have no way to collect data about your leads that convert over the phone.

You can track calls in Google Ads using Google forwarding numbers and determine which ads and campaigns are generating the most offline conversions. However, it’s still impossible to import this data to your Google Analytics and correlate offline data with website usage such as sessions, page views and landing pages.

Pro Tip
If phone calls are an integral part of your lead generation, then there’s a chance that you’re missing out on crucial information about your marketing performance. Fortunately, we have a guide on how to connect offline sales with online conversions, which can help you track which channels generate the most profitable outcomes.

90-day attribution window

Tools such as Google Analytics only support a 90-day look-back window, which is an issue for businesses that experience long and complicated sales cycles. Attribution in Google Analytics allows you to assign credit to the marketing initiatives that drive traffic and conversions on your website.

Lack of conversion data

Google Analytics is a tool built for marketers, so it doesn’t provide much explanation for why your visitors converted on your website. Setting up Goals in Google Analytics allows you to track conversions and see which marketing activities result in the newest leads. Although, the issue with this form of measurement is that leads, by their nature, are not sales. Different traffic sources, keywords and ads produce a different revenue per lead and lifetime values.

Just because your Google Ads campaign is generating the most conversions, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s contributing the most revenue. If you rely on conversion goals only, then it’s likely that your web analytics is telling you lots about your website performance, but nothing about your growth.

How to get started with multi-channel attribution

Multi-channel attribution is a must-have solution for many marketers, but without the right strategy and tools, it can get a little overwhelming. Below are three steps to help you get started with multi-channel attribution.

1. Capture website visitors on an individual level

Aggregated data is great for providing a general overview of traffic coming in and going out of your website. Although useful, it is somewhat unfair to group individual users together, as each and every visitor will be embarking on a different journey. To truly harness the power of multi-channel attribution, you need to focus on collecting and collating individual data instead.

Editor’s Note
Download the eBook and learn how to track your customer touchpoints, unlock valuable data across the entire buying cycle and gain key insights to make smarter budgetary decisions.

Tracking visitors on an individual level allows you to monitor and measure the movements of specific visitors and track cross-channel journeys cohesively to help improve customer experiences and company ROI.

Good attribution software allows marketing, sales and customer support teams to look through the lens of each attribution model and map every touchpoint that a user engaged with across multiple channels and campaigns before converting into a sale.

There are many options to choose from, in fact, we put together a list of the best marketing attribution tools and software for 2021. However, for us, we opt for our own visitor level tracking functionality.

Put simply, Ruler Analytics is a visitor level multi-channel marketing attribution product for forms, phone calls and live chat, evidencing every step a visitor makes in their journey and matches revenue back to the source. Ruler Analytics does this by adding JavaScript to your website so that you can track which marketing sources a user engaged with over multiple touchpoints.

✏️ Product note: Google is replacing third-party cookies with new tracking technologies. Many analytics tools use third-party cookies to track visitor activity, but not us. Ruler Analytics utilises first-party cookies to track data about your own website’s visitors and are still protected under Google’s changes.

2. Store data from multiple sources in a single platform

Next, you need to make sure that your leads and customer data are stored in one place along with the originating source so that you can effectively manage every interaction along the path to sale.

Many organisations opt for a customer relationship management system (CRM) as it allows stakeholders instant access to key information about opportunities and revenue. Also, most CRMs provide the ability to customise fields, which is key when it comes to tracking lead source and marketing variables.

Capturing data from multiple marketing sources in your CRM provides a single source of truth and allows you to understand which channels drive the most qualified leads and sales. Although seemingly straightforward, the process of tracking lead source in your CRM and making sense of it all can be overwhelming without the right processes in place.

Using an attribution tool like Ruler Analytics, you can match leads with their marketing touchpoints and automatically send this data to your CRM. You can populate your sales team’s system with both conversion and marketing data, and help them learn more about each prospect before they reach out to them.

Editor’s Note
Want to know more? Download the closed-loop attribution eBook and see exactly how Ruler Analytics tracks customer touchpoints and connects the dots between marketing and sales. Or, alternatively, book a demo to see first-hand how Ruler can attribute marketing-generated revenue back to your leads.

3. Feed multi-channel data into the tools you use everyday and demonstrate your impact

When a lead is won, you need to find a way to connect your lead source and revenue data with other applications, allowing your company executives to visualise the impact of your marketing efforts.

For example, at Ruler Analytics, we use our platform and revenue management system, ChartMogul, to track and report on revenue driven by our marketing activities.

In ChartMogul, we’ve set up custom fields and marketing source data is passed from our attribution solution and CRM so that we can see more than which campaigns bring the most leads. ChartMogul also connects directly with our payment processor. So, every month, the revenue we are generating from each customer gets attributed back to all of the data we have, allowing us to track and report on subsequent sales.

This integration has opened up a new world of opportunity for us, and has allowed us to:

As our marketing and sales data is passed into ChartMogul, we can see so much more than which campaigns bring us the most “conversions”. More importantly, with the help of Ruler Analytics, we can attribute revenue accurately across the customer journey and assign budget into the areas that have the greatest impact on ROI.

Note: You can also send CRM revenue to your Google Analytics account to close the loop between your marketing and sales and measure revenue against your channels, campaigns, ads and more.

Need help with your multi-channel attribution? 

Marketers investing money to generate revenue should have a solution in place to see if their channels are generating real value.

When you understand the benefits and disadvantages of different attribution models and have a solution that can help you collect and filter your performance data, you can use it to improve your campaigns, reduce waste, and prove how your efforts are building revenue for your businesses.

Want to learn more about multi-channel attribution? Book a call with one of our sales representatives and start focusing on the revenue impact of your marketing initiatives.

revenue attribution marketing attribution - ruler analytics