The Benefits and Limitations of Multi-touch Attribution

multi touch attribution

Have you ever run a marketing campaign, only to look back at your results and wonder what was responsible for getting people to convert? If so, you’re not alone.

In the past, it was difficult for marketers to determine which interactions in their strategies were the most effective at getting their audience to take action. In the absence of the digital metrics that we take for granted today, choosing where to prioritise spend and other resources was a big challenge. 

Now that we’re in the digital age, customer journeys getting ever more complex. Even so, that doesn’t mean that businesses are much closer to understanding the effectiveness of each of their marketing touchpoints. 

But as we use more and more technology to engage our audiences, new methodologies like multi-touch attribution are emerging to help businesses track the value of their different touchpoints in the buyer’s journey, and make more informed decisions about where to allocate their resources. 

However, multi-touch attribution is not without its limitations. In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits, limitations, and types of multi-touch attribution and how you can implement it within your own business’s marketing strategy. 

 

What is multi-touch attribution?

Multi-touch attribution exists to answer the question: “What was responsible for getting people to convert?” 

In other words, it’s a way of assigning value to each marketing touchpoint in the customer journey in order to understand which ones are most effective, making it an incredibly valuable tool for businesses of all sizes and sectors. 

 

First and last touch attribution

Other popular attributions models include first-touch and last-touch attribution. 

However, because these approaches only credit the first or last interaction respectively, they limit a marketer’s understanding of the customer journey and ignore other vital touchpoints that contributed to a conversion. 

For example, before a customer downloads a lead magnet such as a free trial, they might have engaged with a blog post, a social media ad, and an email marketing campaign. 

If we only credit the last touchpoint – in this case, the email campaign – we would miss out on the valuable insights about the other touchpoints that led to the conversion. 

Multi-touch attribution aims to solve this by giving businesses a more holistic view of the customer journey. 

 

What are the different types of multi-touch attribution?

There are several different types of multi-touch attribution, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. 

Let’s take a look at how each approach works. 

Linear

Linear attribution is the most common type of multi-touch attribution. It works by assigning an equal value to each touchpoint.  

For example, if a customer goes through five touchpoints before converting, each touchpoint would be worth 20% of the conversion. 

This approach is simple and easy to understand, which makes it popular among businesses. However, it doesn’t necessarily provide the most accurate picture of which touchpoints are most valuable. 

Time-decay

Time-decay attribution gives more value to touchpoints that are closer to the conversion. The reasoning behind this is that these touchpoints are more likely to have influenced the decision to convert. 

For example, if a customer goes through five touchpoints before converting, the touchpoint closest to the conversion (such as a personalised offer in an email) could be assigned 50% responsibility for conversion, whereas the first touch-point (such as an organic social media post) may be assigned only 5%.

This approach is usually considered more sophisticated than linear attribution and can provide valuable insights into which touchpoints are most influential in the customer journey. However, it does require more time and effort to set up and maintain. 

U-shaped

U-shape attribution is similar to time-decay attribution, but it assigns more value to both the first and last touchpoints in the customer journey. 

The reasoning behind this is that the first touchpoint is responsible for getting the customer interested in your product or service, while the last touchpoint is responsible for getting them to convert.  

For example, if a customer goes through five touchpoints before converting, the first and last touchpoints could be assigned 30% responsibility for conversion, whereas the middle touchpoints may be assigned 10%. 

This approach can provide valuable insights into both the top-of-the-funnel and bottom-of-the-funnel touchpoints that are most effective in driving conversions. However, it does require more time and effort to set up and maintain, and may not be suitable for businesses with a limited number of touchpoints. 

W-shape

W-shape attribution assigns more value to the first, middle, and last touchpoints in the customer journey. 

The reasoning behind this is that the first touchpoint is responsible for getting the customer interested in your product or service, the middle touchpoints are responsible for keeping them engaged, and the last touchpoint is responsible for getting them to convert.  

For example, if a customer goes through five touchpoints before converting, the first, middle, and last touchpoints could be assigned 30% responsibility for conversion, and the 2 remaining touchpoints, they would be assigned 5%. 

The custom option

The different multi-touch attribution models we’ve talked about so far can be useful if implemented in the right way, but one thing that they overlook is the intricacies and differences between more complex marketing strategies. 

For example, if email automation is a part of your campaign, how do you assign value to each of the messages that are going out at different stages? This is where these models can fall down. 

So if your marketing strategy has a lot of touchpoints, you may need to opt for a custom model. However, this requires in-depth knowledge of your strategy and experimentation over time to get it right.

However, if you do put in the time and effort, the results will be far more accurate, giving you a better understanding of where you need to prioritise time and spend. 

 

How to start multi-touch attribution

Multi-touch attribution can be a complex process because the customer journey has become so complex, especially for B2B businesses.  

While a B2C consumer may travel through each stage of the sales funnel on their mobile, the B2B process often looks a little different. For example, a user may start their customer journey by talking to a potential supplier through their LinkedIn app on their mobile device. Following this, they may research the supplier on their browser and follow up with a phone conversation.

This trend isn’t going anywhere, and, according to Google, 90% of multi device owners switch between screens while completing a task, highlighting the challenge of effectively tracking a full-picture customer journey. 

But there are some ways that can make implementing a multi-touch attribution model simpler and more manageable. 

 

Here are our top tips…

Collect data: The first step is to start collecting data. This data should include all touchpoints that a customer has with your brand, as well as information on how they found you, what device they were using, and when they converted. There are a number of ways to do this, such as using Google Analytics or other web-tracking tools, setting up call tracking, or using customer relationship management (CRM) software.

Combine your data: Once you have all your data, the next step is to start combining it into one central location. This will make it easier to analyse and spot any patterns or trends. To combine your data, try using a data management platform (DMP) or data warehouse.

Visualise the data: The next step is to start visualising the data. This will help you to see the customer journey more clearly and spot any patterns or trends. This can be achieved by creating heat maps, flow charts, or a graph.

Choose your vendor: Multi-touch attribution is a hot topic in digital marketing, and there are many vendors who specialise in this area. Researching and taking advantage of some of the best third party tools on offer is a great way to quickly implement multi-touch attribution. 

Do it yourself: if you want a customised approach, it may be a better option to do it yourself.  This will take longer, but it will ultimately give you more control over the process and allow you to tailor it specifically to your business.

 

The key takeaway?

Multi-touch attribution can be a complex and time-consuming process, but it’s worth it for the insights that it can provide. By taking the time to collect and analyse data, you can get a better understanding of your customer journey and where you need to focus your time and energy.

To find out more about tracking the results of your marketing effectively, get in touch.

KUB has successfully worked with upwards of 500 businesses over the last 19 years across a wide range of sectors to help them grow and achieve their goals. Having worked with so many companies it is clear one of the biggest challenges businesses face is finding new customers and growing sales.

KUB has evolved to being a hybrid digital marketing agency. In other words, we will do your digital marketing for you or we will show you the latest techniques to give you a competitive advantage.

By working with our clients to help them drive sales and grow their business, we found that they didn’t have the skills within their firm to use digital marketing to reach their target audience and then engage with them effectively.

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