Quantifying the Customer Journey: Turning Multi-Touch Attribution Insights Into Action
There’s a reason we call it the customer journey. Between a consumer’s first interaction with a digital marketing campaign and the moment they make a purchase decision, there are often many twists, turns and detours along the way.
In today’s complex digital landscape, the journey may span multiple channels, devices and platforms — from email to social media, from social media to search, from search to the download of a mobile app, and so on. Measuring how each of these multiple touchpoints, individually and in combination, transforms an anonymous consumer into a known customer is valuable. This information empowers marketers to understand campaign performance, plus make smarter decisions about how to optimize campaigns and allocate their advertising spend.
But doing this accurately is easier said than done.
Overcoming Customer Journey Challenges to Capture Insight
According to Forbes Research, a study of over 800 CMOs and 50 subject matter experts revealed that “most CMOs still struggle to quantify and communicate the value marketing creates to their leadership, peers and partners.”
Capturing a holistic view of digital marketing performance across the customer journey has been both technically and culturally challenging for a number of reasons. Chief among them is the way that marketing organizations have historically operated, with separate teams in charge of specific channels (such as mobile, email or affiliate, for example), each using different approaches and technologies to measure performance. But in a world where consumers typically interact with a brand’s messaging across multiple channels and devices, this siloed approach no longer makes sense.
Additionally, there are multiple steps along the customer journey that can’t be tracked and analyzed using traditional technical approaches. Customers make themselves known to a brand by making a purchase, using a coupon code or visiting an e-commerce site and registering for updates or rewards. However, they often begin engaging in ways that are anonymous, such as reading a product review, doing a Google search or visiting a social media feed. These activities are a crucial part of the purchasing decision process, and more advanced analytic techniques are needed to capture and merge insights from both the anonymous and known portions of the customer journey for a more complete picture.
But, how do marketers capture all these insights? Enter multi-touch attribution.
Capturing and integrating many diverse sources of marketing data, multi-touch attribution analyzes the unique combination of interactions that make up the customer journey. Multi-touch attribution assigns a dynamic value, usually referred to as weight or credit, to every touchpoint that may have impacted a consumer’s path to purchase. These insights help marketers assess digital campaign performance across multiple channels, devices and platforms, so that they can ultimately maximize their return on advertising spend (ROAS.)
While the value of multi-touch attribution is clear, executing it successfully requires a deeper understanding of how it works, which approach is best and where to start.
Best Practices for Implementing Multi-Touch Attribution
- Break Down Silos: Channel-specific measurement techniques are no longer viable in today’s complex digital landscape. To succeed with multi-touch attribution, marketers must be able to capture and integrate data from all channels, ranging from social, e-commerce, mobile and display, to video, affiliate, email, SEO and SEM. This also requires evaluation metrics and KPIs that are consistent across these channels. Businesses additionally need to discourage the culture of competition between siloed marketing teams battling for budget, and instead incentivize teams to work together toward the overarching goal of ROAS. Most important, a unified marketing analytics tool with advanced multi-touch attribution capabilities is a must, as logging into multiple platforms and tools in an attempt to patch together insights is inefficient, costly and leaves gaps in understanding.
- Move Away from Rules-Based Models: Rules-based attribution, also referred to as positional attribution, is a method of evaluating customer journey touchpoints according to the order a consumer encountered them prior to a conversion. This approach weighs and awards credit to various channels and campaign tactics according to where they may fall along the path to a purchase. For example, linear attribution awards equal credit to every touchpoint. Last-touch, one of the most commonly used models, gives the greatest weight to the “closer” — i.e., the very last touchpoint prior to a conversion. The problem with rules-based models is that they usually rely on assumptions about the importance of various touchpoint positions. In contrast, data-driven attribution uses scientific algorithms to weigh the importance of customer journey touchpoints. Leveraging information related to device, user location, creative strategy and more, data-driven attribution uses real information rather than guesswork, to evaluate engagement. This provides a more accurate picture of the performance of various touchpoints in relation to others.
- Connect Anonymous Customer Data to the Known Journey: It’s a challenge to capture insights about the anonymous part of the customer journey. However, advanced analytics have evolved to give marketers a more complete picture of what happens before consumers identify themselves. By gathering data consumer touchpoints while they are still researching and learning about products, brands can optimize their campaigns towards increasing customer acquisition. The more marketers can learn about the entire customer journey from the first interaction to a purchase, the more they can improve their ROAS.
More than $200 billion is spent globally on digital advertising, yet when it comes to understanding what they are getting for their investments, too many marketers are still flying blind.
The bottom line is that accurate measurement leads to better results. According to Neustar Research, marketers that invest at least 10 percent of their budgets on measurement are 3 times more likely to beat their sales targets by more than 25 percent. Multi-touch attribution is quickly becoming the gold standard for measuring the customer journey, from end-to-end.