Understanding Multi-Touch Attribution

Posted on November 18, 2019 by Jared Harrington

Conversion tracking is an important part of the sales process.By being able to track sales through your funnel and determine where a potential customer decided to make the purchase, companies can improve the effectiveness of future marketing efforts and increase overall conversions moving forward. Unfortunately, the process of converting sales usually isn’t as linear as the concept of the “sales funnel” might lead one to believe.

There are a lot of different factors that can go into making a purchasing decision. A consumer might see an ad and decide to do some independent research on a product, then forget about it until they see another ad down the road. A different consumer might fill out a contact form and not make a purchasing decision until they’re a few emails in with a newsletter series. Identifying and acknowledging the multiple factors that can lead to a sale is known as multi-touch attribution, and it’s a very important skill for marketing teams to learn.

Skipping the middle steps

With the traditional sales funnel model, many marketers make the mistake of only giving credit to specific points of interaction along the sales path.

The initial interaction (also known as the “first touch” in the multi-touch point of view) is credited, as is the last interaction that helps to make the conversion (aka the “last touch”). Additional steps for lead generation or nurturing may be acknowledged as well, though with some marketers they’re given less importance.

Completely forgotten in this process are the smaller steps that actually guide the consumer to these bigger milestones. This is problematic, as it doesn’t give proper credit to the little things that marketers can do to increase the likelihood of conversion. In some cases it can even lead to marketers falling a bit out of touch with what actually informs purchasing decisions, resulting in a lot of frustration from both marketers and companies as conversion rates stagnate or even start to drop as online trends shift.

Understanding each step

With multi-touch attribution, more attention is given to the various aspects of conversion to better track the path that customers take to reach a purchasing decision.

Instead of simply tracking when ads are clicked or supplementary materials are downloaded, multi-touch models include the first point of contact as well as those smaller points that follow. This includes newsletter subscriptions as well as actual newsletter views, webinar attendance, email replies, web searches, information inquiries… all of the little steps that bring a consumer to the table and make them want to become a customer.

Because of the complexity of multi-touch models, they require tracking in a CRM so that you can separate the various points of contact into different types of campaign data. As data becomes available, the different pieces of the larger picture start to become evident and can be graphed to show the effectiveness of each step along the way. Each of these “touches” contributes to the overall sales conversion process, and by giving them all a show of respect you can finally start to understand how they work together to create the final sale.

points of interaction along the sales path


Credit where credit's due

One of the biggest advantages of using multi-touch attribution is that it helps you to see which parts of the journey are essential to the sales process and which aren’t fully contributing.

This transparency allows you to tweak the various components of your marketing campaign so that each piece becomes an active contributor to conversion. The information you gather can help inform budgetary decisions, assist with the design of future campaigns and make your sales conversion process generally more efficient with each change that you make to your campaign.

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