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A History of Multi-touch Marketing Attribution

Have you been hearing the buzz around Multi-touch Marketing Attribution lately? I definitely have and thought I’d break down the facts behind what it is and how it became a thing we now hear “buzz” about.

Let’s begin with a little history lesson:

Have you ever heard of Fritz Heider? No? Well me either until I started looking into this multi-touch marketing attribution thing.

Little background on Fritz. He’s an Austrian psychologist who worked with attribution theory. Some would say he’s credited as the “father” of attribution theory. Never heard of that either? Read on… Attribution theory is basically the study of models that explain attribution (aka the process by which individuals explain the causes of behavior and events).

Now, this may be getting a bit heady and you may be asking, why does it even matter, but keep tracking with me.

To win in marketing, you want to reach your ideal customer and provide the best experience to that customer, right? If you don’t understand the behavior behind how they buy, how they consume content, or why they are interested in your product, it’s going to be tough to market to, or even find, the best customers.  

Here’s where marketing attribution comes into play. In marketing, attribution is the process of identifying a set of user actions (“events” or "touchpoints") that contribute in some manner to a desired outcome, and then assigning a value to each of these events.

Marketing attribution helps us understand what combination of events in what particular order influence individuals to engage in a desired behavior, typically referred to as a conversion, and then quantify that conversion.

This new interest in knowing the data behind how a customer converts has been spurred by the shift of marketing budget spend on traditional, offline ads to now spending on digital media. There is an expansion of data available through digital channels such as paid and organic search, display, and email marketing. It also comes from the pressure we receive as marketers to prove our budgets and continue improving our ROI. Under Pressure is an understatement.


Now that you know a bit of the history behind attribution, and attribution in a marketing sense, let’s talk about how we can release some of that CEO pressure. Logically speaking, to have multi-touch tracking, there must be a single-touch attribution, right? Yes! So why not track the official conversion, the event that got them to the next stage?

Single Touch Attribution is just that, it assigns all the credit to one event, such as the last click, the first click or the last channel to show an ad (post view).

If you’re using this type of tracking in your reporting, you may be missing out on some key behavioral insight. You are also missing out on strategic budget allocation information since single-touch attribution fails to account for ALL contributing factors that led to a desired outcome.

For example:

  • Let’s say you are running PPC Ads, retargeting visitors on Facebook, sending email campaigns and promoting eBooks on your site landing pages.
  • Let’s also say you track and establish your budgets based on the when your customer converts via an eBook landing page form submission.
  • This new lead is part of your newsletter campaign, has seen your ads on Facebook and has viewed your ads on other sites all previous to downloading your eBook.
  • BUT none of those campaigns are credited with the “conversion”. The attribution goes to that final click of the whole process.

ENTER… Multi-touch Attribution.  

Multi-touch Attribution assigns various credit across all the touchpoints in the buyer journey at set amounts.

For example:

Multi-touch attribution

This type of attribution gives marketers a more holistic view into their data. Financially you’re able to invest the correct amounts in each marketing channel more confidently. You’re able to understand your customer buyers stages better and budget your team’s time and resources on the campaigns that get the highest ROI. Over all, you team is happier, your CEO is happier and you can take that pressure you previously felt from your boss, go air up a tube and float the river with all the extra time you’ll have on your hands.

Multi-touch attribution is something we love talking about at DataVibe. If you have any questions or want to know more about how we can help you release some of that pressure, let us know! Or you can also sign up to demo the software here.

Here’s to a better understanding of your marketing data!

September 2, 2016
Jacey Lucus

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