What is Multi-Channel Attribution and How to Get Started

Katie Holmes
4th February 2022

Track which touchpoints generate the most value and how they relate to your overall marketing ROI with multi-channel attribution.

Multi-channel attribution is considered a must-have solution for marketers, but not many fully understand how it works.

In a study, more than half of respondents agreed that a lack of skills and knowledge was the main barrier to successful marketing attribution.

We wanted to change that.

Whether you’re new to multi-channel attribution or would like a refresher on how to use it, this guide can offer a one-stop shop for information and top tips on how to get started.

For this article, we’ll discuss:

💡 Pro Tip

Have you heard about our free attribution e-learning platform? Learn about marketing attribution at your own pace—any time, anywhere. Perfect for marketers at all levels. 

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What is multi-channel attribution in digital marketing?

Multi-channel attribution, also referred to as multi-touch 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.

Related: What is a sales cycle? (Tips to close deals faster)

One of the core benefits of multi-channel attribution is that it provides visibility into the success of each marketing 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.

Why do you need multi-channel attribution?

The insights you gain from multi-channel attribution will provide you with a better understanding of what is and isn’t working. Here are some other benefits that multi-channel attribution can bring to your marketing.

Provides a single view of your customer journeys

Multi-channel attribution has become important for marketers, especially those looking to gain better visibility into the customer journey. 

Related: Guide to customer journey stages and how to track them

Most, if not all, marketers acquire leads and drive traffic to their businesses across digital display, paid search, organic social, email, and more.

In fact, 51% of companies today use at least eight channels to interact with customers. 

One of the main benefits of multi-channel attribution is that it allows you to visualise how users are interacting with your website and moving through the funnel. 

💡 Pro Tip

Tracking user interactions across multiple channels unlocks powerful insight which you can use to improve your customer experience and marketing efforts. Download our guide on how to track customer journeys and learn how to follow the complete lifecycle from awareness to loyalty.

Download the guide on tracking customer touchpoints

Tracks which channels drive the highest ROI

According to a study, we found that 55% of marketers are tasked with the responsibility of increasing ROI.

Related: How to measure digital marketing ROI

Company leaders and clients don’t want to hear about how many leads you’ve generated, they want to know:

With multi-channel attribution in place, you can evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing and reveal which touchpoints are most successful at driving conversions and revenue.

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 or goal.

Related: What are marketing attribution models and why are they important

When it comes to multi channel attribution, there are several models which you can choose from. To explain each attribution model, we will refer to the following 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.

Now that we’ve mapped out our journey, let’s take a closer look at each attribution model.

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. Let’s take a look at the most common single-touch attribution models.

First-click attribution

With 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 - www.ruleranalytics.com

Related: A complete guide to 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

With 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 - www.ruleranalytics.com

Related: A complete guide to 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 last non-direct click, we’ll need to change our journey slightly. 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 - www.ruleranalytics.com

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. It offers a more accurate understanding of how various touchpoints in the customers’ journey work together to deliver leads and conversions. Let’s take a look at the most common multi-touch attribution models. 

Linear attribution model

With Linear attribution, credit for the conversion is distributed evenly across each channel a buyer interacted with throughout the entire buying journey.

multi channel attribution - linear attribution - www.ruleranalytics.com

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 attribution model

With time decay attribution, 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 - www.ruleranalytics.com

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)

For position based attribution, 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 - www.ruleranalytics.com

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 has a series of 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.

What are the common challenges with multi-channel attribution?

Multi channel attribution is a significant challenge for many businesses.

The data backs it up. Statistics show that only 45% of marketers in the US and UK are using multi-touch attribution to measure marketing effectiveness.

But why are marketers struggling with multi channel attribution? There are three main reasons.

1. Difficulty connecting online and offline touchpoints 

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.

💡 Pro Tip

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.

Download the conversion benchmark report

And yet, marketers still lack the tools and functionality to connect online and offline touchpoints.

Related: How to connect your online and offline marketing

Take Google Analytics, for example.

Google Analytics does a great job of tracking the marketing 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 number 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.

Related: Complete guide to phone call tracking

You can track calls in Google Ads using Google forwarding numbers and determine which ads and campaigns are generating the most offline conversions.

Related: Marketer’s guide to Google call-only campaigns

But, 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.

Download the guide on offline conversion tracking

2. Lookback attribution window too short

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.

Related: What is Google Attribution, why does it matter and how to get started

While 90% of marketers consider Google Analytics the go-to tool for marketing measurement, it only supports a 90-day lookback window. 

If your company sells a high-value service or product, chances are your sales cycle is longer than 90-days. 

Using a lookback window too short for your sales cycle can result in under-valuing or over-valuing your marketing channels.

Do you know what that means? Lower conversion rates and increased cost per acquisition costs.

3. Lack of visitor-level conversion data

Out of the box, Google Analytics doesn’t provide you with a singular view of your customer journeys. 

So, it doesn’t provide much explanation for why your visitors converted on your website. 

Related: How to track individual visitors in Google Analytics [SOLUTION]

To track marketing performance, most marketers will rely on Goal tracking. 

Setting up Goals in Google Analytics allows you to track conversions and see which marketing activities result in the newest leads. 

However, 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.

Related: What is a lead source tracking and how to get started

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 a lot 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.

Related: A complete guide to website visitor tracking

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.

For example, Ruler 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. 

Related: How to view full customer journeys in Ruler Analytics

Ruler does this by adding JavaScript to your website so that you can track which marketing sources a user engaged with over multiple touchpoints.

💡 Pro Tip

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 utilises first-party cookies to track data about your own website’s visitors and are still protected under Google’s changes.

Learn more about Ruler and how it leverages first-party data here.

2. Store data from multiple sources in a single platform

Once you start collecting information on your leads, you need to ensure the data is stored in one place along with the originating source. This will allow you to 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.

While seemingly straightforward, the process of tracking lead source in your CRM and making sense of it all can be overwhelming without the right technology and integrations in place.

Related: How to send lead source to your CRM

Using an marketing attribution tool like Ruler, you can match leads with their 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 reaching out to them.

💡 Pro Tip

Want to learn more about Ruler but not ready to book a demo? Download our guide which explains everything you need to know about Ruler and how it can help boost the quality of your marketing reports.

Download why you need Ruler Analytics

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, 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.

Related: How Ruler attributes revenue to your marketing

💡 Pro Tip

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 tracking? 

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.

book demo - revenue attribution - www.ruleranalytics.com

This article was originally published on 7th August 2020 and was last updated on 4th February 2022 for freshness.