Year-over-year, companies continue to invest more of their marketing budgets in digital channels. 44% of marketing budgets are currently being allocated to digital channels, and this is expected to increase to 54% over the next five years (August 2018 CMO Survey). With budgets growing across channels like social media, search, email and display, as well as across devices (i.e. desktop, mobile and tablet), a multi-channel approach to attribution can help you understand and optimise the ROI of all your marketing channels and ensure you’re allocating budgets appropriately.

What is multi-channel attribution?

Multi-channel (or omni-channel) attribution is the process of determining which marketing channels and strategies have influenced and ultimately led to a customer action (i.e. a sale or lead) and awarding each channel appropriate credit based on its role in the customer journey. 

Attribution expert, Anthony Clements, defines multi-channel and omni-channel attribution for us; “Multi-channel attribution seeks to measure how effective an individual marketing channel is at driving conversion. Omni-channel attribution seeks to measure how customers engage with a business, including different types of marketing, platforms like desktop or mobile, and will also generally look at offline engagements.”

How do I start looking at multi-channel attribution?

The first step in making multi-channel attribution work is to view all your marketing channel data in one place. By being able to view all your marketing channels holistically, rather than viewing them in separate silos, you can understand how they impact each other and what role they play in your sales cycle. 

This cycle or process is like a funnel and each marketing channel operates within this funnel in various ways – from building brand awareness and bringing prospective customers into the funnel, to help the customer make the final decision to take action. 

With the proper analytics tools in place, you can view each touchpoint in the customer journey, from when they first interacted with your brand all the way to when they hit the “buy” button.

For example, you would be able to see when a customer interacts with your targeted Facebook ads, if they also clicked on paid search ads in Google, interacted with an influencer on Instagram, or searched your brand on their favourite loyalty site to see if they’d get cash back on their purchase before they decided to take the last step.

When you view this multi-channel data in aggregate, patterns start to emerge. You might find that a percentage of your Facebook ad audience also interacts with Instagram influencers, therefore adding value to the transaction. You might learn what percentage of customers interact with coupon or loyalty affiliates at some point in their journey, and where those partnerships fit into the overall click-to-consume path. 

Once you have your marketing channels tagged and tracked, and you’ve collected enough data to give you a strong baseline, you’ll be able to identify some actionable insights.

How can I use attribution in my affiliate marketing strategies?

Like many marketing managers, you might be concerned coupon affiliates are “hijacking” conversions from other channels or from customers who may have come directly to your site. However, in taking a closer look at your attribution data, you may find they add value to different buyer groups.

For example, a recent analysis of a client we work with took a deep dive into their multi-channel attribution and was surprised to find that over half of transactions from coupon affiliates were single-source transactions; meaning that the customer hadn’t interacted with any other channels during their sale-cycle. 

This helped them re-evaluate their strategy in working with coupon affiliates, with an understanding that they were bringing more incremental sales than they had originally assumed. Rather than removing coupon partners from their affiliate program, they continued to work with and optimise these partnerships, and added budget accordingly, thus driving new incremental sales.

Another client we worked with had been very frustrated with the performance of smaller influencers in their program before looking at their overall click-to-consume path. They had worked hard to bring these influencers onboard but had “no results” to show for their efforts. 

In taking a closer look at their multi-channel analytics, we identified that in many cases, these influencers had done just what their name implied: They were, in fact, an influential touchpoint higher up in the buying cycle and were contributing to the sale. Together we developed a strategic attribution plan to incentivise these influencers with a portion of the commission paid on the conversion. This resulted in a more engaged top of funnel partners driving primary audience traffic, thus contributing to sales. 

What should I do next?

Your network partner or affiliate management agency can help set up and automate appropriate attribution models and help incentivise different types of affiliates to drive desired results. 

Check in with your technology partners to see what tools and capabilities you may already have access to help understand your multi-channel marketing activities and insights in a more holistic way. From there, build an attribution model that works best for your business. By looking at all your marketing activities together, you’ll learn how they can complement each other to help achieve your goals.