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Understanding Multitouch Attribution: The Pros and Cons

Article - 2 Min. Read

Multitouch attribution takes many forms: linear, time decay, u-shaped and more. Learn them all.

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Attribution means assigning the right amount of credit to each channel or touchpoint in an advertising campaign. It helps marketers better understand how channels are interconnected and how they perform and influence each other.

In companies where there’s pressure to track the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and channels, multitouch attribution can also help you justify your marketing activities and budget. It provides actual marketing performance metrics for business decision makers who are highly focused on return on investment (ROI).[1] Read on to learn about multitouch attribution and six different attribution models.

Defining Multitouch Attribution

Multitouch attribution—which assigns attribution to each channel—provides a more complete view of how marketing channels work together. In each of the many multitouch models out there, a fraction of the conversion credit is assigned to each touch.

It’s important to note that multitouch attribution requires the ability to track individual consumers across multiple channels. In this case, you would need to know for certain that the person who received the direct mail is the same person who received the email—and who also made the purchase.

Let’s look at a few of the different multitouch techniques, evaluating the pros and cons of each.[2]

Linear Attribution

In this model, each touchpoint in the direct mail journey is awarded equal credit for the end result. It gives the same weight to a follow-up email sent to a customer as it would to a customer coming in-store to make a purchase.


Simple to set up and follow.


Doesn’t consider that different types of interactions are more or less important to the end result.

Time Decay Attribution

Here, credit grows as time passes, meaning the touchpoints closest to the result have more weight than those toward the beginning of the campaign. A click on a banner ad is considered less important than your direct mailpiece, which is in turn less important than the customer making a purchase.


Acknowledges that not every touchpoint should be considered equally.


Doesn’t measure the true importance of an early-stage interaction in an end result.

U-Shaped Attribution

In this model, two key touchpoints are given equal credit. The time between the two points is also weighted, but is less valuable than either of the key points.


Good for accurately looking at and reporting on early-stage leads.


Doesn’t measure any interaction after the second touchpoint.

U-Shaped Attribution infographic

W-Shaped Attribution

This model is similar to the U-shaped, but hits three key touchpoints instead of two. The remaining attribution accounts for the time and micro-touchpoints between the first and third interactions.


Accurately tracks the early-stage marketing side of an interaction.


Distribution isn’t flexible. Each key touchpoint must have the same weight.

W-Shaped Attribution infographic

Full-Path Attribution

One step beyond the W-shaped is the full-path attribution, which goes from first touchpoint to customer close.


Most thorough, taking into account that important interactions take place between the creation of an opportunity and the end result of a campaign.


Distribution isn’t flexible. All touchpoints have the same weight.

Full-Path Attribution infographic

Custom Attribution

Just as it sounds, this attribution is put together based on your business’ specific ideas. Each key touchpoint is weighted by you: how valuable do you think each touchpoint is to your process? Rank and value them, then apply those attributions to your specific model.


Entirely customizable to your needs.


Provides little guidance about what is most important, and can be difficult to start with if you haven’t measured with other models before.

Is Your Competition Using Attribution?

If your organization is just starting out with attribution, or hasn’t yet started, you’re not alone. Omnichannel attribution, in particular, is still a developing science.

The graphic below depicts the current state of attribution used by companies, according to a recent survey from Wpromote.[3]


We don’t have an attribution model.


Multi-channel (All Influencing Touchpoints)


First and Last Touch


First Touch


Last Touch


Not Sure

Make Your Marketing Smarter

If your company isn’t utilizing multitouch attribution, consider starting an attribution program based on direct mail. That way you’ll be able to track how much direct mail contributes to the buying journey. A mature cross-channel attribution program can also help you:

  • Optimize your marketing mix.
  • Increase ROI.
  • Expand your understanding of the various marketing channels and how they work together.
  • Shorten the decision-making process.

In Conclusion

Multitouch attribution is not an all-or-nothing proposition. You can start small and work your way up. Every additional insight adds value, helping you distribute your marketing budget more strategically across channels, for more effective campaigns.

  1. [1]Jon Buss, “Demystifying Attribution: The Importance of Attribution Models in Measuring Campaign Impact,” The Warc Blog, September 23, 2015.
  2. [2]Lauren Frye, “Multi-Touch Attribution, A Full User Debrief,” Bizible, September 14, 2016.
  3. [3]2017 State of B2B Digital Marketing, Wpromote.

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