What is multi-channel attribution? Basics and best practices

Multi-channel attribution identifies the touchpoints that result in a sale—which is why 75 percent of marketers use this approach. Understand your customer journey and allocate your marketing budget better for the best ROI on your campaigns.

What is multi-channel attribution (1)
Matt Moore
Matt Moore
Associate Manager of Product Marketing
Read time: 7 mins


What is multi-channel attribution? 

Multi-channel attribution is the process of identifying which touchpoints during a customer journey result in a sale. Businesses do this to determine which marketing channels generate the best return on investment (ROI). 

Today, most customers engage with businesses through multiple touchpoints before converting. Few customers purchase on their first interaction with your business. For example, they may see an influencer post on Instagram, view some paid search ads, and read a blog post recommending your product.


For that reason, multi-channel attribution has become essential for determining which marketing campaigns result in the highest conversion rates. 

Within the business to business (B2B) sector, brands expose the average customer to a staggering 36 touchpoints before converting. But do you know which touchpoint results in the most conversions? 

When you put multi-channel attribution models in place, you’ll understand where to spend your marketing budget to achieve the best ROI on your campaigns.

Key takeaways from this blog
  • Multi-channel attribution identifies which touchpoints result in a sale
  • There are three types of multi-channel attribution channels: linear, last-channel, and time decay
  • Multi-channel attribution helps you track top-performing channels and understand your customer journey
  • Multi-channel attribution can help you identify which channels to optimize, increase budget spend, or pull back on

Why do brands use multi-channel attribution?

A significant goal for tracking multi-channel attribution is to reach realistic conversion numbers for each marketing channel. This data ultimately helps marketers decide how to assign their marketing budget.

Customer journey map

Consider a conversion event like scheduling a demo. A brand would review each touchpoint’s role in generating that conversion. 

If the customer journey began with a paid Google ad, the brand would evaluate how much credit the ads get over the blog post that had the call to action (CTA) to schedule a demo. 

Multi-channel attribution answers this by considering the cost of each touch point and the importance given to its stage of the customer journey. 

The model then compares the relationship to the value of the conversion it contributes––how much a scheduled demo contributes to revenue. 

To better understand how multi-channel attribution works, compare it to another popular attribution model you may already know—last interaction attribution. 

Last interaction attribution vs multi-channel attribution 

Last interaction or last touch attribution assigns credit to the last touchpoint of the customer journey before the final conversion. Some marketers may prefer this method as it highlights how top-funnel efforts result in bottom-funnel conversions. 

Keep in mind it only shows a small piece of the picture. 

In the earlier example, the last interaction would overemphasize the role of the blog post, giving more credit to the blog than intended. But the paid Google ads and Instagram posts also played a key role in the final conversion. 

Is multi-channel attribution the same as multi-touch attribution (MTA)?

Marketers often interchange the terms multi-channel attribution and multi-touch attribution. But there are some key differences between the two attribution models. 

Multi-channel attribution factors attribution credit by channel, such as social, organic search, or paid ads. It does not consider specific touchpoints, sequences, or messaging. 

Multi-touch attribution is more precise. It focuses on specific organic campaigns and paid ads, including the channel it ran on, the messaging, and the interaction sequence.  

What are the advantages of using multi-channel attribution?

Understanding where your conversions are coming from is critical for evaluating the success of your marketing efforts. Here are some of the benefits of using multi-channel attribution in your analytics. 

Track top-performing digital channels 

Multi-attribution isn’t just about identifying the different channels where customers come from. It’s also about evaluating where a business should spend its marketing budget. Usually, a buyer will interact with several touchpoints before converting. 

Without proper attribution, marketers are essentially blind regarding where buyers come from. It’s critical to have a strategy to credit these different digital channels properly. It’s clear only multi-channel attribution can accurately track which channels fuel engagement with so many touchpoints. 

Understand the customer journey 

You can better understand the customer journey with access to accurate attribution data. Using a multi-channel attribution model, you can answer one of the most important questions––which channel did the most work to convert a visitor into a customer?

Let’s say you’re an online shoe shop. Using a multi-channel model, you may find that 70 percent of conversions come from your mobile site. Most shoppers see an Instagram ad and click through to your site. With this knowledge, your team can optimize your Instagram page and mobile site, potentially allocating more budget to these channels. 

You can also identify which channels aren’t driving conversions. Then either double down on these channels or focus on other high-performing channels. 

What are the challenges of using multi-channel attribution? 

While it’s known for its accuracy, multi-channel attribution isn’t always straightforward. Some of the most common challenges associated with attributing conversions across multiple channels are data regulations and misattributed conversions. 

Data regulations 

With the death of third-party cookies on the horizon and increasing global data-privacy restrictions, it’s much harder to see what customers get up to online before converting. Businesses usually need first-party data to determine what customers are doing before converting. 

Companies need a lot of data from all their marketing campaigns to attribute sales to specific channels. 

Misattributing conversions 

Setting up multi-channel attribution effectively is a complex process. It’s easy to misattribute conversions, leading you to believe one channel was more effective in fueling conversions than the others. 

Let’s say you allocate more budget to paid Instagram ads. You then head into Google Analytics and see that revenue has increased, attributing to organic search. You may then assume that your organic search campaigns are much more effective for driving conversions than more costly paid Instagram ads. 

But later on, you dig deeper and find that the growth in organic search was from an increase in search for your brand name. What appeared to be huge growth from search engine optimization (SEO) was actually misattributed revenue from searches increasing following Instagram ad campaigns.

Weighing up offline attributions 

Not all attributions happen online. What happens if a customer’s colleague recommends your product to them? You could use customer questionnaires to fill in the gaps. Following a purchase or sign-up, you can use the survey to target those channels you haven’t been able to reach with multi-channel attribution––particularly those offline conversions that happen at first interaction. 

It may take some experimenting with multi-channel attribution models to get an accurate picture of where your conversions come from.

3 types of multi-channel attribution + examples

Choose from three types of multi-channel attribution models.

marketing attribution models

1. Linear attribution model

Using linear attribution, you divide the conversion across all channels equally. For instance, someone clicks on a Facebook ad leading to a blog post. The post offers a product recommendation quiz, which results in a purchase. This model gives each three channels equal credit. 

2. Last-channel attribution

Last-channel attribution awards the most credit to the last channel a customer interacted with before converting. It still credits the other channels the customer interacted with. 

If using the example above, the last channel attribution would assign 80 percent of the credit to the product recommendation quiz. Then 10 percent goes to the blog post, and the remaining 10 percent to the Facebook ad. 

3. Time decay model

Time decay or time delay attribution changes how much credit a channel receives for a conversion according to the timeline—all based on the conversion. 

How to evaluate the success of a multi-channel marketing model

Customers expect to interact with your brand across multiple channels. Plus, when surveyed in 2022, 75 percent of marketers said they use a multi-channel approach to campaigns. But with so many sources of campaign and customer data, it can be challenging for marketers to evaluate the success of multi-channel marketing efforts. 

As you add new marketing channels to your efforts, you’ll need to evaluate each campaign’s success—which depend on your campaigns’ goals. 

To get started, here are four questions to ask while evaluating the overall success of your multi-channel efforts. 

1. Is short and long-term revenue increasing due to your campaign?

The clearest indicator that your campaign is successful is an increase in revenue for the product or service you’re selling. When you have a solid multi-channel attribution model, you can determine which marketing channel or campaign this revenue is coming from. 

2. Is the cost of customer acquisition going down? 

As your campaign progresses, acquiring each new customer should cost your business less. If your customer acquisition costs go up, you may need to rethink how you’re allocating your campaign budget. 

3. Are you reaching conversion targets? 

Conversions will look different depending on your business model and campaign goals. For instance, conversions could be signing up for a free trial, scheduling a demo, or purchasing a product. 

Before you launch any marketing campaign, clearly define your conversion targets. Then evaluate whether you’re reaching them on a monthly and quarterly basis.

4. Do you know when and where customers convert? 

Marketing campaigns can’t be successful if you can’t attribute their success to anything tangible. If you can identify which campaign elements prompted customers to convert, you have a solid attribution model in place. 

Key takeaway: use multi-channel attribution to boost your ROI and understand your audience

Multi-channel attribution sounds complex, but it makes your life as a marketer much easier. When you effectively set up your attribution model, it highlights who is buying from you, where they interact, and later converting. 

Want to learn about driving revenue through content partnerships? Learn about how commerce content increases revenue.

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