Will This be the Year of Multi-Touch Attribution?





Do you know what causes an individual prospect to convert and buy your product? If you’re like most marketers, you’ll look at the last thing they touched — maybe a landing page, buying guide, case study, or comparison chart. Then, you’ll begin promoting that piece, thinking it’s your golden opportunity to gain more customers.

Unfortunately, if you follow this approach, you’ll miss out on the fact that a purchasing decision is a long, drawn-out process for most customers. There are many factors — many “touches” — that go into a buying decision. Knowing what touches are important and how they fit together is the foundation of multi-touch attribution (MTA) — a conversion attribution model that gives weight to each individual input (such as SEO, email, social, etc) that contributed to the purchasing decision.

Multi-touch attribution is shaping up to be one of the most important digital marketing tactics of 2015, and there’s no doubt that marketers who don’t master it will lose money. Here’s what you need to know about  MTA going into the New Year:

The Multiple Types of Multi-Touch Attribution

MTA is still developing, and this year will likely be the year it comes to maturity (or, at least, more popular acceptance). In order to take full advantage of this method, you need to understand that there are several different ways to attribute value to customer interactions, or “touches”:

  • Even – A basic model where all touches receive credit equally. This model is typically used when no one particular interaction is known to convert customers, and the goal is ongoing marketing engagement.
  • Time Decay – Most credit is given to the individual touch that created the desired outcome (such as a sale), with declining credit for less recent interactions. This model is particularly useful for companies with very short sales cycles.
  • U-Shaped/Position – In this multi-touch attribution model, 40% credit is given to the first and last touches, with the remaining 20% divided among the middle interactions. This model is best used for driving awareness and action, as well as for companies with longer sales cycles.
  • Custom – In this final setup, you determine the credit to be given for each touch, depending on your knowledge of your product, customer base, and sales funnel. Your particular attributions may be based on factors such as cost, time, or effort.

As an example of multi-touch attribution in action, take a look at the following chart, based on Kraft’s 18-month pilot program measuring the impact their different advertising initiatives:

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 1.48.50 PM

Just imagine what your brand could do with this type of powerful information. If you’re ready to get started with multi-touch attribution, the first thing you’ll need to focus on is your tools.

Integrate Your Tools

In order to create a useful data set for multi-touch attribution, you’ll first need to integrate the data that comes from you web analytics, CRM software, and customer service teams. There are already plenty of helpful tutorials out there on how to do this, including this detailed primer on using Google Analytics for multi-touch attribution.

There are also tools that will allow you to look at all of your prospects’ touch points and use a statistical algorithm to distribute attribution credit. The algorithm is then updated continuously as new data comes in, helping you to gain a better understanding of your sales cycle and the touches that are most likely to lead to conversions. One example of this type of software you may want to take a look at is Convertro.

One of the growing pains associated with MTA has been understanding how to integrate a variety of customer interaction tools into a single data set. So the task of data integration in a multi-device world becomes even more important, and it’s likely that the tools that are already on the market (as well as those that have yet to be released) will evolve to handle this challenge in a more elegant way.

Test, Test Again, Then Test Some More

As with all marketing methods, multi-touch attribution works best if you test your model repeatedly. For example, you can try a variety of MTA models and see which one works best for you or track specific touches and see if they really had the impact you thought they would. The collective impact of these tests and refinements is likely to have a major impact on the practice in the future.

Multi-touch attribution modeling will help companies more accurately understand how and why their prospects converted into customers. By using and continuing to develop MTA systems, marketers will discover which of their advertising dollars are truly bringing results, allowing them to focus their efforts more effectively.

What aspect of multi-touch attribution is most exciting to you?

Touch screen Photo via Shutterstock

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Sujan Patel


Sujan Patel Sujan Patel has championed Internet marketing and entrepreneurship for over a decade. His experience, ideas, and strategies have helped hundreds of companies build and strengthen their businesses online. Sujan is the VP of Marketing at thisCLICKS, the makers of When I Work — an employee scheduling software solution for small businesses.

3 Reactions

  1. While multi-touch is ideal, most companies lack the resources to successfully implement a robust system. Looking at Kraft’s report I see potentially 5 or 6 vendors that might be used to produce the data. For a SMB that is going to be cost-prohibitive.

    However, getting your online channels recorded through an analytics tool is realistic and could be done by many SMBs this year.

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