Which bits of my marketing are working?

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By: Neil Edwards on 4th June 2014, 4 minute read

Multi-channel what? I hear you ask. Multi-channel attribution is a hot topic in e-commerce and marketing, so it's worth getting clued up.

What is it?

The best way to explain multi-channel attribution is to first look at what it's not - single-channel attribution, or, as it's sometimes known, "the last click wins".

Single channel attribution means assigning all the credit to the channel that has led to the final sale.

For example, if I want to buy a patio heater, I might go to the website of a favoured patio heater retailer, select my preferred model and buy a heater. In this instance, the website is afforded the full credit to say that it was totally responsible for the sale. This is called a "last click win" and the temptation is to assume that the website was the sole cause of the sale, but is this right?

OK, now multi-channel attribution.

Rather than only attributing value to the channel that has had the last click before the sale, multi-channel attribution gives credit to all the channels the user has engaged with.

If you think about it, how often do you personally search for an item and buy it instantaneously?  More likely, you will start with a generic search term like "garden furniture", then you might click a paid advert to Amazon garden furniture. Then, in time, and through various channels like re-marketing, email and social media you will go backwards and forwards to that website and product. Finally, you may be given an offer or just decide it's time to buy.

You have now spent 4 weeks looking and have refined your requirements to a particular brand and style, so you you go to Google and type "Palm Springs 13KW steel gas patio heater, Amazon" (it exists!) leading to you clicking on a natural search link.

What is the advantage of multi-channel?

In real life, the sales funnel is rarely conveniently linear.  Instead, customers will bounce around in the decision making phase, researching options and defining needs before committing to buy.  This is particularly the case in B2B.

As marketers, we need to see the whole journey to judge our spend. Rather than investing totally in the last click channel, it becomes obvious that a better distribution of spend is needed. In the example above, pay-per-click was important for the awareness, the email and the re-marketing for the nurturing and the SEO search for the action.  This follows the Awareness Interest Desire Action model of buying behaviour.

What tools can be used to do this?

To keep your eye on all elements of your marketing, you need several measurement tools. Google Analytics is the Godfather and an advanced understanding of its workings can give you most of the information you need.   Email marketing programmes, website visitor identification software and social media monitoring tools can also be pulled in to give the full picture.

Technology providers are seeing the growing demand amongst marketers and their pay-masters for multi-channel attribution and are bringing multiple implementation and measurement tools together in comprehensive marketing packages. HubSpot, Marketo and Pardot are probably the market leaders.  We are currently implementing Pardot with a client and will report on our experiences in future posts.

Come on - it's the World Cup, hit me with the football analogy.

OK, you asked for it.

Just like picking your World Cup fantasy football team, you need different players with different skills to work the ball up the pitch and score. You wouldn't play a team filled with centre forwards just because they are the only ones that score the goals.  You need to understand the role and value of each player.  The same is true of marketing.

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Neil Edwards


Neil Edwards

Neil is a Chartered Marketer and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing with many years' experience in marketing, brand and communications.

CEO / The Marketing Eye

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