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How Multi-Touch Attribution Illuminates the Customer Journey

July 26, 2018 - By Ginna Hall, Senior Writer, Nielsen Visual IQ

How Multi-Touch Attribution Illuminates the Customer Journey

Taking a holistic approach to attribution and optimizing in real time are two essentials for improving ROI, according to a recent Forbes article: Multi-Touch Attribution Modeling: A More Revealing Look At The Customer Journey.

"The purpose of multi-touch attribution is to help marketers invest in those experiences that are proven to drive growth."

In the article, industry experts validate the ability of multi-touch attribution to improve marketing effectiveness. This is because, in the words of Forbes contributor Paul Talbot, “Multi-touch attribution can provide a more illuminating vantage point.”

Marketers today face six main questions:

  1. What are the attributes of the consumers seeing my marketing and advertising?
  2. Which channels and devices are consumers using to interact with my brand?
  3. How can I create coordinated, relevant, personalized consumer experiences?
  4. What’s the best way to allocate spend and optimize budgets within and across channels?
  5. How can I measure the performance and impact of my marketing and advertising by audience?
  6. How can I get a holistic picture of all marketing and advertising, reaching all consumers, across channels and devices?

Bottom line, marketers are striving to connect cause and effect: which marketing tactics led which consumers to a conversion? The answers can be gained from taking a multi-touch approach to attribution.

Multi-touch attribution is an advanced way of measuring marketing effectiveness because it accounts for the cross-channel consumer journey. It replaces the default, flawed approach of measuring performance within marketing channel silos – typically giving all of the credit to the last marketing touchpoint experienced by a consumer before she converts.

This siloed approach leads marketers to double-count success metrics because multiple channels are taking credit for the same KPI event, such as a conversion or lead. It also neglects to measure the contribution of supporting marketing channels and tactics earlier in the consumer journey that play a role in influencing a desired action. ​

Multi-touch attribution is a broad discipline that includes multiple methods and models. Knowing which model is right for your business needs depends on what you want to do with output.

No matter the method, the common denominator between all multi-touch attribution models is that each tracks the consumer journey and de-duplicates it across channels and tactics to assign credit for a KPI event (e.g., conversion, lead, etc.) to one or more touchpoints. ​

“The purpose of multi-touch attribution is to help marketers invest in those experiences that are proven to drive growth,” said Kelsey Robinson, a McKinsey partner based in San Francisco. “And to do that, you need to better understand the role that different marketing interventions play along a consumer’s digital journey, everything from a viewed display or paid social ad to an SEM click.”

According to Talbot, there are two key reasons why this approach is critical in the digital era:

  • Multi-touch attribution modeling lets marketers more accurately measure the collective impact of specific tactics... from split testing email subject lines to making different offers.
  • Modeling helps the marketer shorten sales cycles, grow customer lifetime value, and more.

“Sophisticated marketers will run several multi-touch attribution models at one time to see campaigns that are best at generating leads at the top of the funnel, which campaigns are the most influential in generating opportunities in the middle of the funnel and which campaigns are most effective in helping to close a deal.”

When this holistic approach is taken, and when optimization takes place in real time, marketing ROI can improve.

“[T]he reality is that marketers tend to have an incomplete (even false) understanding of what motivates their consumers. [multi-touch attribution] can help them understand to a much greater degree of certainty what role certain marketing exposures have on broad and deep segments of consumers,” says McKinsey’s Kelsey Robinson.

“For example, exposure to a view of a paid social ad may actually have more impact and influence on a customer’s purchase decision than marketers are giving credit for.”

Forward-thinking marketers will embrace the promise of multi-touch attribution: an expanded perspective and a holistic view of customer behavior.

Learn More

To learn more about how multi-touch attribution can help you be a better marketer in the digital era, download our ebook: Crossing the New Digital Divide: Your Guide to Marketing Effectiveness

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