multi touch attribution data measurement

Multi Touch Attribution: Making Sense of the Complex Customer Journey

In the fragmented and complex customer journey, the ability to accurately measure and give credit to deserving touchpoints is imperative to optimizing campaigns for success. Identifying what is working and what isn’t requires a clear view of the customer journey in its entirety.

But according to a recent Digiday poll41% of those surveyed only credited ROI to the last touchpoint before a conversion, which is also known as last touch attribution. 

While this measurement model can be helpful in certain scenarios, there’s a number of problems with this approach. With the amount of channels marketers can now run campaigns from, giving credit to only one touchpoint is outdated and overly simplistic.

What about the first-touch interaction?

What about the touchpoints in the middle?

Are some more meaningful than others? 


"63% of marketers say the ideal state of attribution means being able to track customers throughout the full marketing funnel"

[Source: Digiday]

Measuring only last touch is like only crediting the goal-scorer, but not the two assists that led to the goal. Your marketing channels work together as a team, and in any team sport, there is often so many other contributing factors that led to the goal other than the actual goal scorer.  

So then why is last-touch still popular? 

Well it’s mainly because Google Analytics, the most widely used website analytics platform, by default assigns credit to the last platform or medium that led to the transaction or desired outcome. It’s also very straightforward and far easier to understand. But where analytics is concerned, simplicity just isn’t key.  

Uncovering true insights, the hidden details behind performance metrics, is why some businesses are as successful as they are. They notice patterns and behaviors that can’t be gleaned from just the customer interactions at a single touchpoint. 



multi touch attribution

Multi-touch attribution:

If you haven’t discovered it yet, multi-touch attribution is something you should quickly add on to your ever-growing to-do list. Understanding this more advanced measurement system can help you accurately attribute the marketing efforts that contribute to sales and conversions, as well as: 

  • Identify where in your business the greatest areas of opportunity for growth are 
  • Make budgeting conversations easier with concrete numbers 
  • Help you decide where to allocate resources in the future to maximize ROI 
  • Determine future goals and campaign planning  

There’s a number of variations that are designed to work for different marketing funnels, and we’ll go through a few of the most common ones to pinpoint what may work best for your business. 

"38% of marketers say they don’t feel completely aligned with their brand or agency partner when it comes to delivering consistent and accurate metrics"

[Source: Digiday]


Types of attribution models: 

In a hypothetical customer journey involving programmatic display, social, email, organic and direct traffic, we can visualize how much credit is assigned to each channel using the different model variations. 


1. Linear

linear attribution model

In a linear attribution model
, credit is divided equally among all interactions before a sale occurs. Since in our example the customer interacted with 5 different touchpoints, each touchpoint would be awarded 20% of the sale’s revenue.  

Use this to model to get a balanced look at your overall marketing strategy, and to make sure all campaigns and channels are accounted for. But If you feel as if some touchpoints are more valuable than others, this wouldn’t be a good model for you. 


2. U-Shaped

u-shaped attribution model


In a U-Shaped model the first and last touchpoints are emphasized, awarding 80% of the credit evenly to both. The final 20% is assigned equally to the mid-funnel touchpoints that occur between first and last. 

Many would consider the first and last touchpoints as the most crucial parts of the customer journey. The first touchpoint is your first impression - what initiates the customer journey in the first place.

Your top of funnel tactics here like display ads, social media posts and blog articles will often be the first touchpoint, and it’s very useful to see what type of content from these channels is generating the most revenue. The last interaction before the sale is the tipping point towards getting the lead to convert, and it’s useful to see what exactly is driving these outcomes and achieving the end goal.


3. W-Shaped

w-shaped attribution model


W-shaped models distribute 90% of credit to the first, middle, and last interactions. Unlike U- shaped this model places more emphasis on the middle interaction where an important event occurs in the customer journey.

A relationship between brand and customer is formed but the customer has yet to make a purchase. This can happen in the form of downloading an eBook, or signing up for a newsletter, etc; something that requires the exchange of information for something in return.  

Use this model if your customer journeys tend to have lengthy consideration stages, or if the people who are aware of your brand often tend to seek more information before becoming a potential customer.


4. Time Decay

time decay attribution model

Time decay models assign more credit to the interactions that occurred more closely to the actual conversion, while other touchpoints decline (or decay) in value the further away they are from the conversion event.

Businesses that rely on relationship building to generate revenue will often use time decay models to help visualize the important steps towards closing a deal. Marketing funnels designed towards building a rising level of customer interest over time would be a good fit for this type of model. 


Which is one is best for you? 

These model variations aren’t a one-size fits all.

You may be running various different campaigns with various different goals. Experiment with at least a few of them to see what makes sense for you, what covers the most ground, and assigns credit to the touchpoints you feel are the most deserving.

Some businesses value lead creation more than others and want a closer look at what’s driving that outcome, in which case the W-Shaped model would make the most sense. With any of these models, multi touch attribution’s main benefit is showing how effective each channel is at producing conversions.

Your priorities, goals, and the structure of your marketing and sales operation should ultimately determine the best fit. 

John Haslinger
No Comments