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What is Multi-channel attribution and why is it so important?

What is Multi-channel attribution and why is it so important?

Multi-channel attribution has become a buzz-word within the digital marketing space over the last two or three years. Outside of the industry, it’s still a largely unknown term so here is a quick run-down of what it is and why your company should be paying attention to it. 

On a simplistic level, digital marketing can be measured based on the number of people who respond to your ad, and then purchase your products or services directly afterwards. However, the journey that people take is typically a lot longer, as it can take days, weeks or even months for people to discover and develop trust in your brand, understand the value your products and services present, and finally make a purchase. This is where multi-channel attribution comes in.

What is it?

Multi-channel attribution looks at the entire journey that someone takes to becoming a customer and attributes value to all the ‘touchpoints’ or ‘interactions’ along that journey. Let’s look at an example route:

Jill sees your display ad while browsing online. Three weeks later, she sees your social media ad and follows your brand. Later that night, she visits your website directly, and subscribes to your newsletter. 4 months later, Jill is searching online and clicks a paid search engine ad to compare your products with those of a competitor. The next day, she visits your website and makes a purchase.


In this journey, the most commonly used method of ‘last interaction’ attribution would assign 100% of the sale value to the direct click where Jill bought the product.

Multi-channel attribution, on the other hand, attributes value across the entire journey, from the first display ad through to the last direct visit, giving you a better idea of the value your campaigns are contributing to your sales.

Types of Attribution

There are various ways to attribute value to your various marketing channels. These models, referred to as attribution models, fall into the following general categories:

Linear attribution

In the linear attribution model, equal value is assigned to each interaction along the way. In this example, five points end in a conversion. Therefore, each touchpoint would receive 20% of the total conversion value.

Decaying attribution

With the decaying attribution model, we make the assumption that the most recent interactions have had the biggest influence on the customer. If earlier interactions were successful, then why did they only purchase now? In this model, the most recent action would receive a significant percentage of value, (40% for example). The next interaction would receive less, and so on until we get to the very first interaction, which may only receive 1 or 2%. 

Position-based attribution

The position-based model takes a slightly more balanced approach, where it assigns a significant amount of value to the last interaction, a relatively high value to the first interaction, with the remaining value allocated to the interactions in between.


Which model is best?

The reason there are so many different models is because there is no single model that makes sense for everyone. People interact differently with brands, websites, products and services, so one model may be better for your brand over another.

For most brands, position-based or decaying models work best as they are better at allocating value to the most valuable clicks. However, brands that get the best insights from their multi-channel attribution analysis create individual models.

A custom attribution model is one developed specifically by you, with your knowledge of your conversion funnels. It examines each step and assigns a percentage value to each channel, and each interaction. 

This model is the most certain type of model but requires a very deep understanding of how each of your marketing channels interacts with the customer’s journey. 

My recommendation would be to use one of the above models as your starting point.  Once you have collected enough data about your conversions and your user’s interactions with each of your marketing channels, you can then have your data analysts either modify the model or build a custom model.

Why the fuss about attribution?

For a long time, spending your digital marketing budget on branding, education, awareness and other non-monetary objectives has been a blind spot for companies. While engagement and brand awareness can be measured, it has been challenging to attribute value regarding sales and revenue back to these campaigns.

With multi-channel attribution models and tools, we are now able to see the impact of these types of campaigns with new clarity, making budget allocation and investment in awareness and engagement focused campaigns easier and more measurable than ever before.

Google Analytics users beware

If you are using Google Analytics for your business intelligence, your conversions are being reported using a different model; one that could be considered a little misleading.

The default attribution model that assigns conversion in the majority of your reports is the ‘last non-direct interaction’ model. In using this type of attribution, Analytics will assign the conversion value to the last click that wasn’t a direct visit. Using our example with Jill above, the search engine ad would be assigned the value.

While it can sometimes make sense, this model ignores the value of direct click interactions. Your direct traffic can be a result of offline brand awareness, word of mouth, your sales reps out meeting people or any other number of productive sales activities.

However, Google Analytics also provides fantastic tools for comparing attribution models and can provide invaluable insights into your branding and engagement marketing campaigns. So make sure you are looking at the attribution model comparison tool in Analytics, so you have a more realistic view of your marketing efforts.

If you are using first or last interaction attribution or are not seeing value from your awareness, education and engagement campaigns, talk to Metrixa today. We can help you gain insights into the genuine value that your campaigns are delivering. Try our AdWords Audit.

Find me on Twitter @nathan5ri. Always happy to talk about digital marketing, awesome cars and Game of Thrones.