Multi-Touch Attribution and Models: A Complete Guide

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Kristen Baker
Kristen Baker


Today's buyer's journey includes a number of interactions across various touchpoints and channels. There's rarely a conversion of sale that occurs based off a single interaction.

Multi-Touch Attribution and Models: A Complete Guide

Rather, conversions and sales often stem from a mix of interactions via a variety of sources such as blog articles, social media posts, webinars, in-person events, conversations with reps, content on your website, email marketing campaigns, and more. All of these touchpoints play a role in getting your customers to convert.

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Attribution allows you to give credit for conversions to those marketing touchpoints and channels throughout the buyer’s journey. Multi-touch attribution takes this a step further.

Multi-Touch Attribution

In this blog post, we’ll cover the definition of multi-touch attribution, what makes it unique from other types of attribution, and multi-touch attribution models. Let’s get started.

What is multi-touch attribution?

Multi-touch attribution, which may also be referred to as fractional attribution, is how you determine the value of each touchpoint throughout the customer journey that results in a conversion.

In other words, it's when credit for a conversion is given to every touchpoint that a customer experienced throughout the buyer's journey.

Why is multi-touch attribution important?

The reason multi-touch attribution is so important is that it allows you to pinpoint all of the channels that contribute to a conversion and which of those channels have the most impact on a conversion. It gives you a clear picture of how your channels and touchpoints influence every conversion.

This is valuable information that you can use to enhance those touchpoints for future prospects to improve the customer experience and buyer’s journey. It shows you exactly how different touchpoints and channels work together to influence deals on an individual level.

You can also use this information to better understand what matters most to your target audience throughout the buyer’s journey and which aspects of the customer experience are most influential when they’re making a decision.

You may have heard about other types of attribution before, such as first-touch and last-touch. Let's talk about what makes multi-touch attribution unique next.

Multi-Touch Attribution vs. First-Touch Attribution vs. Last-Touch Attribution

Multi-touch attribution is unique from first-touch and last-touch attribution because it doesn’t attribute a conversion to the first or last marketing touchpoint a customer has prior to converting.

For example, say a HubSpot customer read a blog post, attended INBOUND, interacted with a social media post, and then became a customer.

First-touch attribution would conclude that the blog post that the customer read gets the credit for their conversion whereas last-touch attribution would give the credit to the social media post they interacted with. Meanwhile, multi-touch attribution would consider all of these touchpoints and assign credit to each of them.

Meaning, multi-touch attribution is unique because it takes all touchpoints into consideration and then assigns credit to each of those touchpoints based on the amount of influence it had a customer’s decision to convert. First and last-touch attribution — which may also be referred to as single-touch attribution — do not. These methods feel slightly outdated when compared to multi-touch attribution because they don’t account for the many touchpoints and channels that exist for prospects and customers to engage with.

Multi-Touch Attribution Models

There are a number of attribution models that you can use to determine which touchpoints are the most important in the buyer’s journey — and different multi-touch attribution models weigh the multiple touchpoints in different ways.

Here are four of the most common multi-touch attribution models to help you get started.

1. Linear Attribution

A linear attribution model, also known as an even-weighting attribution model, gives equal credit for a conversion to every touchpoint in the buyer's journey. This can be considered the "standard" when it comes to multi-touch attribution models.

Who should use linear attribution?

Linear attribution is great if your prospects are often in the consideration phase of the buyer's journey for an extended period of time because it shows you the impact that all of your content and messaging has during that extended phase.

It's also ideal if you want to know the ways that your touchpoints work together to influence a deal or if you're new to multi-touch attribution and don't have a baseline understanding of how your touchpoints tend to do among your audience.

2. Time Decay Attribution

A time-decay attribution model is when you organize your touchpoints based on their percent influence on a conversion so that the least-influential touchpoint (with the lowest percentage) is first and the most-influential touchpoint (with the greatest percentage) is last.

Who should use time decay attribution?

Time decay attribution is ideal if you're measuring the success of short-term touchpoints like campaigns.

3. U-Shaped Attribution

A U-shaped attribution model, also known as a bathtub model, gives the first and last touchpoints in the buyer's journey a higher percentage of credit than the touchpoints in the middle.

Who should use u-shaped attribution?

U-shaped attribution is ideal if your team wants to focus on the impact of the first and last of your multiple touchpoints. There's less emphasis on touchpoints that support the middle stages of the buyer's journey.

4. W-Shaped Attribution

W-shaped multi-touch attribution gives credit to the first and last touchpoints in the buyer's journey as well as gives value to the touchpoints that occur in the middle of the buyer's journey. Then, all remaining touchpoints are assigned equal credit.

Who should use w-shaped attribution?

W-shaped attribution is helpful if you want to understand which touchpoints actually convert leads but also identify the touchpoints that encourage customers to engage and continue to move through the buyer's journey.

In addition to the four multi-touch attribution models above, you can also create customize your multi-touch attribution model using attribution software.

Multi-touch attribution software — like Wicked Reports — has the power to make the process of identifying which of your marketing touchpoints are succeeding or failing among your prospects simple.

wicked reports marketing attribution software example


In fact, Wicked Reports gives you a complete view of how customers interact with your brand and tracks incoming clicks against your CRM and sales data so you can identify the most important clicks in relation to your team's unique marketing goals.

Pro Tip: Seamlessly integrate Wicked Reports with your HubSpot CRM platform.

Use Multi-Touch Attribution

Multi-touch attribution is a powerful process that marketers can use to identify the various factors that influenced a purchase decision for a customer. It also helps marketers understand which of those factors were the most influential in their decision.

This information can be used to improve the buyer’s journey and the marketing content and communications shared throughout it as well as provide an understanding of what matters most to your business’ unique prospects when making a buying decision.

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