Multi-touch attribution is crucial for modern marketing teams. There are multiple types of attribution models you can use, and the best one will depend on your unique situation and use case. In this guide, we discuss what multi-touch attribution is, the key benefits, and how you can overcome the challenges associated with it.
Do you feel like you should know more about multi-touch attribution?
If you’re nodding your head, don’t worry.
The vast majority of marketers are in the same position.
Multi-touch attribution allows marketers to see how well individual campaigns are performing, how they relate to overall marketing ROI, and, most importantly, lets them make decisions based on actionable data.
In a survey by Kanter Millward Brown, 78% of marketers admitted that they struggle to connect the dots of their performance across various marketing channels.
Source: Getting Media Right – Kantar Millward Brown
Luckily, it’s getting easier to track and measure marketing performance.
Multi-touch attribution is the best way to measure how all of your campaigns contribute to your overall marketing funnel performance.
Table of Contents
What is Multi-Touch Attribution?
Multi-touch attribution is a method of judging marketing channel success by analysing each touchpoint that leads to a conversion.
Multi-touch attribution is a way to determine the success of your marketing by analysing customer journeys and the role your channel plays in leading to a conversion. The goal is to figure out which marketing channels or campaigns should be credited with the conversion and then optimise your budget allocation to focus on the channels and campaigns you know are influencing conversions.
Here’s an example:
If someone reads a blog on your website and then converts, you might credit that blog piece for the conversion. But what if that user originally came to your website by clicking on a PPC advert?
Originally, marketers might credit the blog post alone for the conversion. In actual fact, the PPC ad grew awareness of your brand, and ultimately supported the conversion. So, both channels deserve a portion of the credit.
But, does the PPC ad deserve more credit than the blog? Or should they have an equal 50% split?
We’re getting maths-y, but multi-touch attribution can help you answer this question. It takes into account the cost of every touchpoint, as well as the weight you give its stage of the customer journey.
Then, it compares that to the value of the conversion. For example, a demo request conversion will be worth more to you than a new subscriber. Formulas for tracking this can be tricky, but are essential to understanding the true value of your marketing.
According to e-marketer, over 45% of marketers in the UK and US use multi-touch attribution in their reporting.
It’s not hard to understand why more businesses are moving to multi-touch attribution. Multi-touch attribution allows you to see the conversion paths that your customers took with more clarity.
Let’s compare it to the second most popular attribution model; first-click attribution.
Multi-touch attribution vs. Single-touch attribution
Most marketers use last-click attribution to monitor the success of their marketing campaigns and let us just say, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Last-click attribution credits your conversion to the last touchpoint your user had with your website. Many marketers prefer this model, as it’s a great way to understand what channels and campaigns your customer engaged with in the final stage of their decision process.
But, if you start to dig a little deeper, you could potentially see some problems with using last-click attribution in isolation.
Say a user finds you originally thanks to a well-written SEO blog. Now, they might be remarketed to on Facebook and click on that advert, and then convert into a lead.
In this case, last-click attribution will allocate 100% credit to Facebook for the conversion. As a result, you could deem your SEO as unsuccessful, when actually it contributed to a new lead!
Benefits of Using Multi-Touch Attribution
There are plenty of benefits of multi-touch attribution when using it to report on digital marketing campaign success. Having visibility of buyer journeys provides insight into the success of your marketing.
This will help you:
Determine your true marketing ROI
Digital marketing needs a lot of investment whether that’s resource, budget, or both. With that investment comes a need to understand what return you’re getting.
Multi-touch attribution is the ideal way to help you harness data, interpret it and use it to tell a story of what’s actually happening in your marketing funnel. And you know what that means… ROI!
Once you have a true understanding of what channels, campaigns, and keywords are working, you can allocate more budget to them and watch the conversions roll in.
And, you’ll be able to stop wasting time, and money, on marketing campaigns that just aren’t impacting your bottom line.
With this, you can even shorten your sales cycles as you truly understand what touchpoints need to occur to convert that lead into a sale.
Identify important micro-conversions
Wouldn’t it be great if a user landed on your website and hit the “purchase” button, or signed up straight away?
A marketer can dream. While we should definitely be tracking the number of conversions happening on our website, we also need to understand the actions happening before that conversion.
With multi-touch attribution models, you’ll discover what touchpoints in your funnel lead to significant changes in conversion rates.
You might discover that if a lead reads a particular blog post, they have a 30% higher chance of converting.
Or, leads who engage with a specific retargeting ad converted in a shorter time frame than those who didn’t. Once you start applying multi-touch attribution models to your marketing activities, you’ll uncover hidden information data that will help you make better decisions in the future and discover how well all of your channels deliver value to your audience.
Challenges of multi-touch attribution
Everyone wants more (and better) data to judge their marketing efforts, so it’s easy to want to jump straight into using multi-touch marketing attribution models in your company.
However, there are some challenges that you need to be aware of.
Lacks Visibility into External Factors
Firstly, if you haven’t included or aren’t tracking a touchpoint, it won’t be given any credit in your attribution model.
Let’s say you have your product listed on a third party directory site like Capterra or G2. Your prospects may visit your listing to see reviews and evaluate your product before making a final decision.
However, because you don’t have tracking installed on there because it’s not your own website, it won’t show up in your attribution models. Depending on the external, untrackable factors, you could use marketing mix modelling to assess the impact of these factors.
Use your data to guide decisions, and look at the data with a critical eye if it doesn’t look right.
Lack of Offline Metrics for Calls or Meetings
Most multi-touch attribution models don’t easily allow for offline conversion tracking. So, any inbound calls or in-person customer visits won’t be logged (unless inputted manually), leading to holes in your tracking and inaccurate results.
But don’t worry, there are ways around this. Take our purpose-built call attribution tracking tool.
You can track (and record) your inbound calls and understand, both how your marketing impacts the number of inbound calls, but also how influential calls are on your revenue generation.
See the screenshot of our call tracking product below. Here, you can see three calls. Two originated on a first-click basis from Google Paid, while one came from an organic search. You can see the first entry didn’t click to call straight away, later converting via a organic search.
Ruler Analytics Call Attribution Report
Find out more about getting started with call tracking and how it can help you better understand your marketing’s impact on inbound lead generation.
What Types of Multi-Touch Attribution Models Can You Use?
Ready to learn more about the multi-touch attribution models available? We’ve listed how each one works so you can see how they can help you to measure the effectiveness of your marketing performance.
1. Linear Attribution Model
The linear multi-touch attribution model assigns the same credit to every channel that a lead viewed or engaged within their conversion journey.
If they clicked a Google ad, used a brand search 3-days later, signed up to your newsletter and then converted using direct search, all of those assets will be given the same amount of credit.
Linear attribution shows you what touchpoints were interacted with but won’t show you how important they were in the overall buyer journey.
2. Time Decay Model
Time-based attribution assigns more weight to interactions that happen near the conversion event.
If a user clicked on your Google ad, did nothing for a month, performed a brand search, signed up to your newsletter and converted using direct search, then the last click (direct) would receive more credit than your other touchpoints.
Time decay attribution can work, but if you have a long sales cycle then it will discount touchpoints that may have been crucial to getting a buyer to put your solution into their consideration set.
3. U-Shaped Attribution Model
The U-shaped attribution model (also known as the Position-Based Attribution) gives credit to two main touchpoints.
The two key touchpoints are the first touchpoint that a prospect interacted with, and the second is the lead conversion touchpoint (where they became a qualified lead).
Those two touchpoints receive 40% of the credit each, and the remaining 20% is divided between other touchpoints that someone interacted with.
The rest of the credit is then evenly distributed through any touchpoints in between.
4. W-Shaped Attribution Model
The W-shaped attribution model gives the majority of credit to three main touchpoints.
30% goes to the first touchpoint. Another 30% is assigned to the touchpoint where a prospect becomes a qualified lead. A further 30% is assigned to the final touchpoint a lead interacted with before becoming a customer.
Then, the remaining 10% is assigned evenly to all other touchpoints that the customer interacted with.
5. Full Path Attribution Model
The Full Path attribution model (sometimes referred to as Z-Shaped) assigns credit to even more of the touchpoints in the buyer journey.
In this case, 22.5% of the credit is given to four points:
- First touch (where the customer first interacted with your brand)
- Lead-generation touch (where they became a qualified lead)
- Opportunity-creation touch (where they became sales-ready)
- Customer close touch (the final touch where they became a customer)
- The remaining 10% is then assigned evenly to the rest of the touchpoints in the buyer journey.
6. Custom Attribution
A custom multi-touch attribution model is what you’d expect.
You assign the weighting to each touchpoint yourself depending on how important it is to your business.
If you have the resources, this is arguably the most effective way to attribute conversions to your entire marketing funnel, as you can tailor it to your exact needs.
How Does Multi-Touch Attribution Track Your Marketing?
If you want to use multi-touch attribution, you’ll need to ensure your tools and processes are set up to capture the right data and display it in a way that you can make sense of.
The multi-touch attribution models explained above might seem exciting and perhaps you’re itching to get started. But, how can you track online and offline touchpoint data hygienically? There are three main ways an advanced multi-touch attribution solution can track marketing activities across channels, campaigns and keywords.
We run you through each:
This is a critical element of proper tracking given your website is a hub for other marketing activities. Your paid media, organic traffic, social and email campaigns will likely all direct to your website in some way, so integrated tracking is the cornerstone of multi-attribution tracking.
Multi-touch attribution tracking through your martech stack
The average company uses 91 different martech tools. Even if you’re using less than that, you’ll need to ensure you’re tracking how each tool influences conversions.
Application Programme Interface (API) integration is the technical term for how software programs interact with one another. An API integration secures data can flow seamlessly between two applications.
Since your users are interacting with multiple channels and platforms throughout their buying process, your multi-touch attribution solution needs to be able to assimilate data across multiple applications.
Advanced, multi-touch attribution solutions are equipped with these types of integrations between multiple types of martech — ad platforms, marketing automation programs, optimization applications, live chat systems, and others.
UTM tracking should be used across your campaigns, as it allows you to monitor campaign success on a traffic and engagement basis directly within analytics software like Google Analytics.
By determining your UTM parameters, you can understand which channels, campaigns and even CTA’s are working hardest to convert your website users.
Cookies are another form of tracking, and they allow multi-attribution softwares to track anonymous visitors to your website. Don’t worry, we’re not being stalkers. When a user first comes to your website, you likely don’t know who they are. Multi-attribution tools can assign their website activity to their cookie data up until the point of conversion. Then, we can assign their customer journey directly to them, meaning you can see their customer journey directly within your CRM.
Multi-touch attribution is vital to a successful marketing function.
If you stick to single-touch attribution, you could be missing critical insight on how each marketing touchpoint contributes to the bigger picture, and you’ll never gain the clarity you need to accurately assess ROI.
Multi-touch attribution is crucial for modern marketing teams.
There are multiple types of attribution models you can use, and the best one will depend on your use case. There will be some initial effort required to understand multi-touch attribution, and to implement the correct model for your company. But once you have true multi-touch attribution capabilities, you’ll wonder how you went without it.