Concentrating on connections: When last-touch attribution is advantageous


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Last-touch attribution gives credit where the final customer interaction happens, be it through a paid ad, social media post or even a traditional billboard. Last-touch attribution assigns full weight to that single touchpoint, regardless of whether it was a click or simply an impression.

While last-touch attribution has been a key factor since the days of marketing mix models (MMMs) in the 1950s — think pre-digital marketing with a dash of Mad Men flair — it’s important to acknowledge the strategy’s limitations. MMMs, which boomed in the 1980s, helped executives understand how various marketing efforts contributed to sales. Yet they fell short in a single dimension: complexity.

Today’s customer journeys are more intricate than those in Don Draper’s days, weaving through online and offline touchpoints. Relying solely on last-touch attribution may not suffice to grasp customer buying behaviors. A more comprehensive approach incorporating multiple attribution models may be necessary to capture the full scope of a customer’s journey.

Why single-touch attribution isn’t always enough

Both last-touch and first-touch attribution focus on a single interaction in the customer journey. Last-touch recognizes the final touchpoint before a conversion, like a click on an ad, as the driving factor of the conversion. First-touch, on the other hand, assigns credit to the very first interaction, such as a social media post that sparked initial interest.

These single-touch models provide a limited view by neglecting the influence of other touchpoints. In contrast, multi-touch attribution models distribute credit across various interactions a customer has with your brand. The specific weight given to each touchpoint can vary depending on the chosen model.

By analyzing different attribution models, you gain a more comprehensive understanding of your customer’s journey. This includes identifying their initial touchpoint, the touchpoints that nurtured their interest and the final touchpoint that led to conversion. This valuable knowledge helps you optimize your marketing strategy to address customer pain points and effectively guide them through the buying process.

Leveraging last-touch attribution

Last-touch attribution provides insights into the final influence that led to a conversion, but it doesn’t reveal the customer’s entire journey. Understanding their path, from the first brand interaction to the final touchpoint, paints a much more valuable picture. Multi-touch marketing attribution offers crucial insights into your customer’s story.

However, it’s important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Multi-touch models are ideal for complex customer journeys, but there might be situations where single-touch models, like last-touch, can still be helpful. Last-touch attribution provides a clear picture of which marketing efforts directly triggered conversions. This is undeniably valuable, as conversions are the ultimate goal, and knowing which ads, campaigns and channels drive the most action allows you to optimize your marketing spend and identify areas for improvement. Here are some specific ways last-touch attribution can benefit your business:

Uncover the secret to CTAs. Last-touch attribution highlights which calls to action are driving conversions. By analyzing all campaigns and ads (including offline interactions with call tracking), you can pinpoint the CTAs that generate the most leads and, more importantly, the most qualified leads. This data empowers you to refine your CTAs for maximum impact, leading to higher conversion rates and a more efficient marketing funnel.

Understand the art of lower-funnel messaging. The content your customers encounter at the “decision stage” of their journey, also known as the lower funnel, is critical for securing conversions — this is where they’re weighing their options and getting ready to buy. Last-touch attribution illuminates the specific content, channels, keywords and messaging that resonate with your high-value customers at this crucial moment. Armed with this knowledge, you can tailor messaging across other channels to mirror what’s driving success. This strategic approach ensures you reach the right customers with the most compelling messages at the perfect time, ultimately maximizing your conversion rates.

Achieve smarter ad spending. In today’s marketing landscape that challenges teams to do more with less, maximizing return on ad spend is a top priority. Last-touch attribution provides a valuable starting point by identifying which ads directly lead to clicks. This information helps you allocate resources more effectively. Focus on campaigns driving strong engagement and adjust budgets for those that aren’t performing as well. Last-touch does have limitations, however, since it doesn’t account for the full customer journey. Multi-touch attribution can analyze all touchpoints, offering a holistic view of your marketing efforts’ impact. You can see which channels nurture leads, convert high-value customers and drive sales across the buyer journey. Layering call tracking on top of this brings offline activity into the picture and provides closed-loop attribution.

Personalize interactions for improved customer experiences. Last-touch attribution equips agents with context for every incoming call by revealing the customer’s last brand interaction. This knowledge eliminates the need for repetitive information gathering and allows agents to dive right in with relevant and helpful information. If an agent is assisting someone who just downloaded an eBook on paid ad optimization, last-touch attribution will provide crucial context, enabling a more targeted and personalized customer experience.

While last-touch attribution might not be the sole attribution model used today, it is still a valuable piece of the puzzle. It can help identify what triggers engagement with your high-value customers, allowing you to facilitate seamless customer journeys that drive business success.

Todd Fisher
Todd Fisher is the co-founder and CEO of CallTrackingMetrics. Todd founded the business in 2012 with his wife, Laure, in their basement and together have grown it into an Inc. 500-rated,top-ranked call management platform serving over 30,000 businesses around the world.


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