How Multi-Touch Attribution Optimizes the Customer Experience

April 30, 2020

Digital Marketing experts estimate that most Americans are served around 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements daily. It’s no wonder why advertisers have a hard time determining which ads, channels, and/or devices impact a consumer’s particular buying decision most. However, determining your most conversion-driving touchpoints in the customer journey is one of the most important aspects of your digital marketing strategy.  

This insight becomes even more important when there are unexpected market changes, similar to what we are all currently experiencing with COVID-19.  Right now you are likely working with tighter marketing budgets and possibly smaller teams, all while adapting to rapidly changing consumer behavior as reflected in the fluctuating economy. Therefore it’s more important now than ever that your data measurement plan gives you actionable insight into your customer journey. 

To achieve this level of insight, you’ll need to adjust your attribution model so that it measures beyond just the first or last interaction in the customer journey, and highlights the impact each touchpoint has on your customer’s journey to conversion. This is where multi-touch attribution can help. 

Multi-touch attribution is an attribution model marketers use to identify exactly which touchpoints throughout the customer journey deliver the most value to your brand. As opposed to a single-touch attribution marketing approach, this attribution method breaks down the entire customer journey so you can determine your most effective marketing channels and optimize the customer experience at the highest valued touchpoints. Serving your customers tailored and personalized messaging at the moment they are most likely to convert leads to a shorter conversion process and increased ROAS. 

Leveraging multi-touch attribution capabilities enables you to quickly adapt your marketing messaging and timing to create a customized and effective experience for your customers – no matter how the market continues to evolve. 

Understanding Different Marketing Attribution Models 

Before we explain how multi-touch attribution can help you optimize your customer experience,  it’s important to understand the differences between single-touch attribution, like first or last touch attribution, and multi-touch attribution. But first we need to answer the question: what is attribution modeling?

Attribution models are used by marketers to assign different amounts of conversion credit to each touchpoint throughout the entire customer journey. Marketing attribution models provide businesses with their true ad campaign value and helps advertisers understand how all of their channels work together to create multiple touchpoints that drive conversions. 

There are a variety of marketing attribution models available, for example, in Google Analytics and Google Analytics 360. Each attribution model provides individual insights at different levels of granularity yet marketers traditionally stick to two models: single-touch and multi-touch. First and last-touch attribution models are the most commonly used approaches marketers use when leveraging a single-touch attribution model. So what is first-touch and last-touch attribution?

First Touch Attribution assigns 100% of the conversion credit to the first touchpoint in the customer journey. For marketers using this attribution model, insights will be limited to the very first engagement a customer has with your brand. For example, a user sees or clicks on your website from organic search results or a targeted ad. This marketing attribution model gives insights into a user’s first impression of your brand, however, offers a significant disadvantage in understanding the customer journey. 

Last Touch Attribution assigns 100% of the conversion credit to the last touchpoint in the customer journey. Similar to the strategy and downfalls of first-touch attribution, a last-touch attribution model limits insights to a user’s last impression or action before conversion or falloff.  For example, clicking a checkout button or abandoning a full cart. Assigning all value to the last interaction a customer has with your brand can cloud your judgement about your customer’s true experience.

While advertisers commonly use these single-touch marketing attribution models, there are serious limitations that prevent advertisers from getting the most insight from their data measurement. 

Single-touch marketing attribution models do not measure the effectiveness of your mid-funnel touchpoints on conversions, and therefore you do not know which customer interactions are the most valuable to your brand. These mid-funnel touchpoints could be actions users take on your site when they are considering whether or not to purchase your product or service, such as clicking on the customer reviews tab on the product’s page or clicking a link that shows all of your products on special promotion (i.e. a “Sale” tab). 

By assigning all of the credit to the first or last touchpoint, brands miss out on the true value of all other touchpoints along the customer journey. Understanding the value of every touchpoint is what provides marketers with the insights necessary to make informed decisions about cutting wasted ad spend. 

In comparison, multi-touch attribution helps you understand when and where the most valuable interactions between your brand and your users occur along the customer journey. This is critical when determining how you should invest your budget in each of the phases of the Customer Journey- Awareness, Consideration, Conversion, and Loyalty. Multi-touch attribution models assess all phases of the customer journey rather than just the awareness phase (i.e. first-touch attribution) or conversion phase (i.e. last-touch attribution). Multi-touch attribution not only shows marketers which customer journey phases drive the most value for your brand but also illuminates the true effectiveness your first and last touchpoints actually have on conversion rates. 

Without multi-touch attribution, you could have completely inaccurate data about the impact of these mid-funnel touchpoints on the customer experience, which ultimately drives conversions.  As a result, you might pull budget away from certain channels and touchpoints that are actually highly contributing to the final conversion. 

Using inaccurate marketing attribution data to justify pulling budget from channels simply because they don’t happen to be the first or last touchpoint in the customer journey is inefficient, and can cause you to waste your limited budget in the wrong channels. It can also cause you to miss out on lucrative opportunities to optimize the most valuable touchpoints, and even jeopardize conversions entirely since you are fixing something that may never have been broken in the first place. 

Benefits of Multi-Touch Attribution & How it Positively Affects the Customer Experience

A true multi-touch attribution model measures all of the touchpoints along a customer journey to conversion (both impressions and clicks) and assigns a certain weight to each of those interactions. This weight gives a measurable value to all of the mid-funnel touchpoints along the way, so you can evaluate them for their overall effectiveness in your marketing strategy. The higher the weight the more value the touchpoint, partner, placement, keyword or device, has on the ultimate conversion. 

Understanding how each of these touchpoints interacts offers deeper insights into which channels are a vital part of the customer experience and as a result account for the highest ROI and ROAS. Brands use this insight to decide how to efficiently allocate limited marketing budgets only to the touchpoints that give the best customer experience and therefore encourage not only conversions, but repeat conversions, and overall brand loyalty. 

Now that you understand how multi-touch attribution supports greater overall marketing efficiency and effectiveness, let’s walk through our pro tips for using multi-touch attribution to optimize your customer journey for increased conversions.

Tips for Using Multi-Touch Attribution to Optimize the Customer Journey

#1 Collect Data From All Touchpoints To Inform Campaign Strategy & Budget Allocation:

Ensuring that you are collecting all of your relevant data and touchpoints is one of the most important parts of getting value from your multi-touch attribution model. As a result, you can optimize the customer journey and improve the customer experience by prioritizing successful channels, ads, and messaging in your ongoing marketing campaigns. 

When your attribution model is missing any data, it cannot give credit to the missing source, and therefore might inaccurately assign more credit to another source. This inaccurate data does not truly reflect the overall performance of a certain channel in your campaign, causing you to waste parts of your budget optimizing the wrong touchpoints and associated channels. 

In addition, make sure your analytics solution also collects customer experience data from any offline channels as well. This ensures you can optimize any touchpoints in the offline customer experience in addition to optimizing touchpoints in the online customer experience.

When you understand the ways customers interact with your different channels both online and offline, you can then make data-driven choices about which parts of the customer experience are most important for driving conversions, and optimize those touchpoints. 

For example, you might notice that the conversion rate is higher when touchpoints from both display and paid search (such as highly specific creatives and keywords) are present in a customer’s experience on the path to conversion. A small insight like this can give marketers the knowledge they need to positively impact the customer journey. In this instance, you would want to make sure to maintain a consistent message within all of these ads, and make sure any budget adjustments are consistent as well, to improve the customer experience.  

#2 Test Multi-Touch Attribution Models to Minimize Wasted Spend

Determine which type of multi-touch attribution model works best for your business and media channels before wrongfully allocating all of your marketing dollars to a new attribution model that doesn’t match your customer experience and overall campaign goals.  

For example, linear, time decay, or u-shaped models assign varying amounts of credit to touchpoints along the way. Sometimes you may need to use one or more of these specific models depending on factors such as campaign goal, campaign channels, target audiences, and display devices. 

To test different types of attribution models, you can use a data sample based on geographic location, an audience segment, or time period, for example. Then you can look for any increased ROAS or ROI compared with the models you already have in place. Testing different multi-touch attribution models in this way allows you to minimize any wasted spend by investing a smaller amount of your budget upfront and ensuring success with the right model, instead of blindly investing all of your marketing dollars elsewhere due to incomplete marketing attribution data. 

#3 Take Action On Insights To Optimize Budgets & the Customer Experience

No matter what kind of multi-touch attribution model you choose, it’s important that all stakeholders and in-house teams managing the campaign agree to take action on your chosen model and optimize your marketing budgets accordingly. 

For example, if you have previously been using first or last touch attribution, note that transitioning your entire measurement systems to multi-touch attribution will take time. It will also take time and effort from each member of your team to translate goals, KPIs, and benchmarks from existing models to a new attribution type, so it’s important to be thorough and patient as you make the switch. 

More importantly, remember that multi-touch attribution is a way to measure your data. While it can give you the insights needed to create a customer experience that drives increased conversions, you need to take specific action to optimize high-value touchpoints and reevaluate low-value touchpoints. Without incorporating the insights from your multi-touch attribution model into your overall targeted marketing campaign strategy, you will not be able to measure any success from switching to multi-touch attribution. 

Bottom Line

Multi-touch attribution is the best way to ensure you are accurately measuring the impact of every touchpoint on the customer journey for the best possible customer experience. A strong customer experience is vital to the success of your digital marketing campaigns and overall brand loyalty as we adapt to the daily changes in consumer behavior from the impact of COVID-19. 

Multi-touch attribution provides data-driven insights that you can use to advocate for certain shifts in campaign strategy and helps prove which channels drive the most ROI and ROAS for your brand. As a result, you can make quicker decisions about how to optimize your customer experience and experiment with different types of multitouch attribution models before committing larger amounts of spend without proof of success. 

Ready to take your ads, and your business, to the next level? Get in touch with the DELVE team today.