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Why Multi-Touch Attribution Matters

Whether marketers are familiar with marketing attribution or not, they’re always thinking about it. Why? Because many businesses are focused on paid media, and the purpose of paid media is to drive business growth. But, how do you drive growth if you don’t know where to allocate your marketing dollars? In an increasingly fragmented marketing landscape, this question is more important now than ever. The answer is with multi-touch- attribution.

Let’s go over why measuring attribution is a necessity, how single-touch attribution is going out of style, and the problems marketers face while measuring.

Every Business Driving for Conversions Is Using an Attribution Model

In a nutshell, attribution is the process of assigning credit for a conversion to a marketing touchpoint. Any customer interaction can qualify as a touchpoint, be it a sale, a download, a display ad, or even word-of-mouth referrals.

There are essentially two types of attribution: Single-touch attribution and multi-touch attribution.

Single-touch attribution models assign 100% of conversion credit to one marketing touchpoint. They’re easy to implement and are popular because of their ties to Google Analytics (they only offer last click model unless you pay a premium). Here are some single-touch attribution models:

  • Last touch: This model assigns 100% of the credit to the last marketing touchpoint before conversion.

  • Last click: This model assigns 100% of the credit to the “last click” before conversion.

  • First touch: This model assigns 100% of the credit to the first marketing touchpoint (the channel or activity that acquired the contact).

  • First click: This model assigns 100% of the credit to the “first click.”

Multi-touch attribution evaluates the impact of each touchpoint leading up to a conversion. Using this method, marketers can get an in-depth look into consumers’ experiences and devote spend to the channels that provide the highest ROI. There are plenty of models to work off of, but here are a few common ones:

  • Linear model: Assigns equal value to all marketing touch-points.

  • U-shaped Model: In this model, 80% goes to the first, and the last touch-points and 20% is doled out to the middle.

  • Time decay based model: Credit is spread among all of the touch-points, but less credit is given to the first interaction, and the last interaction receives more credit.

If you’re a marketer that’s driving for conversions, you’re probably using an attribution model — you just might not know it. For example, Google Analytics automatically assigns a last-non-direct click attribution model. So, when you are analysing channel performance or which campaigns are driving site visits or conversions, you are viewing performance by the last, non-direct interaction before conversion since these channels receive 100% of the conversion credit.

When you think of it like that, it doesn’t make sense to blindly assign “credit” to touch-points without rhyme or reason. You’re already doling out money to different channels anyway, so why not be that savvy marketer and start measuring to see what’s effective?

Multi-Touch Attribution is Key

Having a healthy multi-channel device and platform marketing mix is an excellent thing — it allows you to reach the right audience at the right time with the right message, whether they're meeting your brand for the first time or have already made a purchase. However, using more than one channel means that it’s essential to be diligent about your attribution efforts.

This is where multi-touch attribution becomes key. With the changing customer journey and explosion of available channels and different devices, a customer is going to encounter 56 touch-points before making a purchase. It doesn’t make sense to give credit to the last touchpoint solely. Imagine ignoring the other theoretical 55 touch-points — it’d be a wasted opportunity.

And once you do have all that conversion data from a variety of channels, the next step is to tie them together to make smart spending decisions.

The Problem with Google and Facebook (and Other Marketing Platforms)

There are significant discrepancies that marketers face when measuring attribution through platforms such as Google and Facebook. While they’re undoubtedly popular, there’s an important issue that stands out: Google and Facebook report conversions differently.

Google Analytics only tracks Google ad networks like GDN, Google Ads, etc. You can see Google Ads impressions but not other channels. It doesn’t take into account impression-based interactions with digital media or traditional media that leads to a branded search.

In contrast, view-through conversions play a crucial role in Facebook advertising. However, although they measure both clicks and impressions, Facebook’s view and click attribution windows are limited to 1, 7, or 28 days.

Not only is measuring attribution with these channels confusing because the number of conversions will vary by channel, but their measurement scopes are limited. So, where do you go from here? The next step is to search for a marketing attribution software that’ll enable you to measure more than just clicks, gather conversions from individual platforms, and blend them to get valid overall conversion-data.

Yes, Attribution Can Be Flawed — But it’s Important

Look, we get it — explaining the value of attribution to your stakeholders could be, for lack of a better word, difficult. They’re expecting immediate results or solutions that lead up to those quick results. It’s easier to just use Google Analytics for free, and operate off of their last click model to explain where conversions are coming from.

But that’s not how the customer journey works anymore. People are rarely going to see an ad and then click on it to buy right off the bat. They’re going to do some research, maybe wait until they get their pay checks, or perhaps even forget about your brand altogether until they see another ad that reminds them of your company’s existence.

Multi-touch attribution allows you to identify more than just the channels that perform well at a single touchpoint. The real power of multi-touch attribution is enabling a marketer to understand how channels work together to influence customers to visit your site and purchase.

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