There’s a growing concept in sales that is changing how we think about online advertising: “multi-click attribution.” Traditionally, credit for a sale is given to whatever source last came into contact with a consumer; that’s called “last-click attribution.” But as the pathway of online sales becomes more complex, it’s increasingly important to recognize the role of multiple sources of contact which encourage purchases at various times in various ways. This more nuanced approach to understanding online marketing and sales is called multi-click attribution and it can be an extremely important tool in guiding your marketing dollars!
Imagine that you need a new fishing rod (doesn’t matter that you already have 30 rods and reels meticulously organized in your garage). Your buddy Carl tells you all about a great brand that you’ve surprisingly never heard of, with amazing features and reasonable prices. He even busts out pictures and videos of the rod in action. After Carl gives you the address of his favorite bait-&-tackle shop, you head over and speak briefly with a salesperson who eagerly rings you up.
Who should get credit for the sale? The salesperson may get the commission, but they obviously owe a debt to Carl – he’s the one who persuaded you by providing all of that valuable information. In the same way, giving credit to the last source that came into contact with a consumer for any business connection, lead, or sale is increasingly an incomplete picture of a sales process that now includes a variety of complementary sources and channels.
In our digital world, your advertising is likely multi-channeled and customers do their own research through new technologies and various sources like never before. The self-directed behavior of online buyers takes them further and further down a purchase path on their own; most now complete between two-thirds to 90% of their sales journey before making contact with a dealer! Consumers may be converted into hard leads for your business at any number of “touchpoints,” including emails, social media, search engine results, digital ads, and listing inventory on 3rd party vendor websites, like EquipmentTrader.com. In fact, online sales are preceded by an average of 30 (!!) various touchpoints. Last-click attribution doesn’t just exclude supporting players, it may very well be ignoring the sales MVPs that you should really be investing in!!
Let’s consider an example closer to home. A customer, Frank, needs a new piece of heavy equipment. Frank does all of the usual research; he asks around and gets advice from friends, coworkers, and business partners, he Googles, he Bings, he browses a classified magazine he found at his local convenience store, and he finds his way onto the leading online marketplace for heavy machinery, EquipmentTrader.com. There, he quickly finds equipment from your dealership, including detailed product descriptions, photos, and your contact information. Frank’s Equipment Trader experience, combined with all of his other research, convinces him to buy your for-sale equipment. Now, Frank clicks on the clearly visible link to your website and it’s there that he finalizes the purchase.
So, we ask again: Who should get the credit for purchases on your website? There are a few different ways to look at it beyond last-click attribution. Some popular multi-click attribution models include linear, positional, and time-decayed perspectives. They have fancy names, but each describes a pretty simple concept. Linear attribution gives equal credit to all touchpoints throughout a sale. Positional attribution gives major credit to the first and last sales sources and some minor credit to touchpoints that occur in between. Finally, time-decayed attribution simply means that the further away from a sale a source made contact, the less influential that touchpoint is considered to have been.
Each of these approaches recognizes that many users and consumers are on your site and making purchases because they’ve been sent over from 3rd party sources like Equipment Trader. Such information provides important context when analyzing your website’s traffic and sales data and planning your marketing strategy. It will be up to you to figure out which perspective will provide the most accurate picture of marketing and sales for your business. For advanced attribution help, Google offers comparative modeling on its AdWords and Analytics pages.
We bring this all up, because you want to be sure to invest your advertising dollars into the systems and services that most-influence consumers and convince them to buy your products. Because today’s online sales paths are complicated, the most influential touchpoint is often not the last one. As the devices, platforms, and online sources that drive sales continue to multiply and change at a rapid pace, business professionals have to adapt their mindset away from last-click credit and toward multi-click attribution. Adopting this new mindset and keeping multiple touchpoints in mind when allocating marketing funds will keep you at the forefront of your industry and help maximize your exposure and drive sales!!