Data Analytics

What is Multi Touch Attribution in Ecommerce Marketing?

Where are your customers coming from? What is the value of your different marketing channels? Does a customer acquired via Facebook paid have a higher lifetime value (LTV) than an email customer? If these questions, for your DTC ecommerce site, have been keeping you up at night, we can’t blame you. They are some of the most common questions on the minds of marketers everywhere. As advertising opportunities, social media, and other new ways to engage your customers continue to grow, it can be hard to put your finger on exactly where your customers are coming from.

Enter marketing attribution. The savior of ecommerce data analysts and marketers alike. Multi touch attribution (a subset of marketing attribution) is a method of setting up your data so that you know exactly what touchpoints your customers have had with your channels ahead of their purchases. Not entirely sure what that means or how to set it up? No worries. We’ll properly define attribution and get deeper into all of that with examples ahead.

The main point here is that you’re not alone. If you want a better way of understanding your customer journey and what that means for your marketing and advertising methods, you’re in just about the same boat as everyone in ecommerce, regardless if you’re in a B2B or B2C space.

Let’s dive into marketing attribution by defining multi touch attribution and looking at the UTM codes marketers use for tagging their channels. From there, we’ll discuss how Peel empowers you to dig into the data that matters and discover patterns in your customer behavior and channel performance that may have otherwise gone under the radar.

What is Multi Touch Attribution?

Multi touch attribution is a measurement technique that collects individual data for trackable media and conversion events, aka touches, during a customer’s journey to purchase. This assigns credit to each touchpoint, so that the marketer can see how much impact each channel/event/data point has on the purchase.

People click around! They are exposed to multiple touchpoints throughout their purchasing decision, and it is very much dependent on what they are buying. One of the biggest drivers behind multi touch attribution is that a customer’s first visit to your website may not always result in a conversion. In fact, data suggests that in the U.S., ecommerce conversion rates (from overall traffic to purchase) stand at just over 2.5%, with somewhere between 92% and 95% of first-time visitors not making a purchase. This underscores the fact that the majority of first-time visitors to your site will not make a purchase.

With more online options for goods and services and more content and media surrounding the ecommerce experience, online shoppers have become smarter. They also engage in online shopping on multiple devices, adding a further layer of complexity to figuring out the details of their consumer journey to your site. This increase in consumer savviness means that a single Google Ads campaign, email campaign, or SMS campaign will not (in most cases) be solely responsible for a conversion.

Multi touch attribution takes into consideration each touchpoint a customer has with your content, from email, to social media, to ad campaigns and more, providing you with an overall perspective of the content and media that worked in tandem to convert the customer. This helps you piece together your customer journey by understanding your channel performance and how that translates to revenue. What channel has the best ROI? If you know it, then you will obviously invest more into it.

Why should you invest time and resources into setting up multi touch attribution? Because it:

  • Tracks where your customers came from
  • Accounts for all touch points leading to the purchase
  • Provides insights into your channel performance
  • Takes you closer to your customer behavior
  • Helps you prioritize resources for your most effective channels

How do you set up multi touch attribution for your ecommerce site? By tracking events and data.

One way is to properly tag your URLs with code that is specifically created for this type of tracking. These URL snippets, called UTM codes, identify where a customer came from. Marketers use these codes to help them learn as much as they can about their customer journey, as they piece together the puzzle of data from each marketing touchpoint across their channels.

UTM Codes enable accurate multi touch attribution
Data from UTM codes, strategically tagged in your URLs, flows into Peel after Shopify and Recharge transactions, showing the different touch points your customers experience in their conversion path.

To help you learn how you can do this for your ecommerce store, let’s dive into UTM codes.

What is a UTM Code?

A UTM code is a special code that can be added to the end of a URL to track clicks, channel performance, and marketing campaigns. UTM stands for “Urchin Traffic Monitor,” which is a reference to Urchin - a discontinued web stats analytics program that served as a precursor of sorts to Google Analytics.

UTM codes are your friends, we promise! We know this can seem like an additional layer of things to do for your ecommerce site, on top of the million other things on your checklist. But UTM codes, when tagged in your URLs correctly, set you up for success. In fact, they only exist to provide more data and more transparency into your customer journey.

There are 5 types of UTM codes that you can plug into the end of your URL to track clicks and performance. Here are the 5 types of code snippets with examples:

1. UTM Source - Tracking the Traffic Source

As the name suggests, a UTM source code tacks onto your URL to track the source of your traffic to your page. Examples of common sources include Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, a specific website name, or email source (among many others). They appear on the end of your URL as a parameter with utm_source. Check out the example below:

Example URL Snippet: &utm_source=linkedin

2. UTM Medium - Classifying the Type of Traffic

With this type of UTM code, you’re able to track the type of traffic your customer came from to make their purchase. This lands in broader categories, with the UTM source being represented by results like: email, social, organic, paid, affiliate, etc. Think of these as the overarching type of traffic (rather than the specificity provided in “UTM source”). UTM medium code appears as utm_medium on the tail end of your URL.

Example URL Snippet: &utm_medium=organic

3. UTM Campaign - Digging into Campaign Specifics

This UTM code allows you to draw clear distinctions between different types of campaigns you are running. For example, you may want to use these tags to differentiate between your Instagram Ads and your SMS text campaigns. UTM campaign code appears as utm_campaign in your URL.

Example URL Snippet: &utm_campaign=campaign-name

4. UTM Content - Pinpointing the Point of Entry

In some instances, you may have multiple links leading to the same URL. An example of this being a piece of content that has multiple call-to-action buttons to test what attracts and drives clicks from your customers. In this scenario, you need a way of differentiating where the click came from even if the source (overall piece of content) is the same. This UTM parameter is utm_content at the end of your URL.

Example URL Snippet: &utm_content=bodycta

5. UTM Term - Tracking Keyword Performance

It’s not marketing without stress over keywords. The UTM term code helps you track which keyword your customer originated from. *Note: this UTM is used for paid search ads. This appears as utm_term in your URL slug.

Example URL Snippet: &utm_term=really+good+example

Using a UTM builder will make this less overwhelming. The key is to be organized and clear.

Why is Multi Touch Attribution with UTM Codes Important?

Multi touch attribution tells you where your customers are coming from and which of your channels are performing the best. That data is invaluable for optimizing your buyer journey and making the most of your marketing spend.

It provides the closest insight you can gain into the minds of your buyers as they come in contact with your digital marketing channels. Understanding these customer touchpoints helps you gain a clear perspective into everything that makes up the conversion event and allows you to make the right adjustments to optimize your marketing performance.

UTMs are the backbone of marketing attribution. Think of attribution with properly mapped channels via UTM codes as a window into the entire customer experience with your brand, from the first touchpoint to the last touch with your content ahead of their purchase.

UTMs tell you:

  • Where traffic is coming from
  • Which links people are clicking in a campaign

And they:

  • Track campaigns
  • Track mediums (ex. Facebook or Google or social)

Let’s jump into an example of the power this can bring you:

Imagine you have daily SMS text messages blasting to your customer base. You know these people love your product, because you have a solid amount of customer loyalty with repeat purchases. When you implement UTM codes to track this data though, it turns out that you get very few regular conversions from your SMS campaigns. But, you notice that your monthly newsletter + loyalty offers email campaign is absolutely on fire with conversions, especially when the subject line mentions an offer.

In this example, maybe a daily text message isn’t the secret recipe. Maybe this is telling you to pull back on the daily engagement and focus on 1 or 2 pieces of direct engagement per month. Or, since the campaign content is so vastly different from the ones in the SMS, maybe you should try another experiment to see if it is the campaign or the medium. Maybe it tells you that your loyalty offers are a sweet spot for your business as people respond to these campaigns.

By organizing your efforts with a naming convention and diligent process, you can uncover patterns of content/ads and messaging/mediums where people are more engaged. Attribution with UTM codes provides you the clarity to be able to test new ways of reaching your customers and provides the data to back you when doubling down on the channels that perform well.

Another example is to understand the relationship between the products people purchased and the ads that feature those products, to know if people are actually buying the promoted products. Creating custom segments in Peel, using the exact ad campaign UTM and the featured product, will allow you to track revenue, orders, average order value and other crucial purchase analysis back to that UTM. The underlying secret in all of this is the organization of UTMs – once you have that, you can dive back into your analysis in Peel to truly see the full story.

Interested in more ways that automated data analytics can inform strategic decision making? Learn more in our ecommerce analytics guide.

Multi Touch Attribution with Peel

Now that you have the overview on multi touch attribution and UTMs, it’s time to put theory into practice. You’ve created your UTM tags; you’ve optimized your channels with content and campaigns to engage and delight your customers.

But now what do you do with all that data? Manually pull it and put it in a spreadsheet? For each UTM? For each attribution channel? With different segments based on campaigns, products, and time periods?

Done manually, this could be days or weeks of work for your team. Why do that when you can have this automated for you overnight?

Here’s how to start automating your marketing attribution data in 3 easy steps:

  1. Head over to the Shopify App Store and find Peel.
  2. With 1 click, start our 15-day free trial.
  3. Let Peel do the rest. It only takes 24 - 48 hours (sometimes less) to pull all your data depending on the size of your store.

With the free trial, you’ll have access to all your channel click data to get your feet wet with attribution and the transparency it can bring to your marketing strategy.

With a full subscription, you get access to all the segments, including:

  • Channels: We defined mapping of the 19 most common traffic sources for easier analysis.
  • Days to conversion: The number of days between first touch (or visit) and the order purchase.
  • Landing page: URL of the first page the customer landed on for any session associated with the order.
  • Referrer: URL of the previous web page from which a link was followed.
  • UTMs: Source, Medium, Campaign, Content, and Term

Peel captures attribution data straight from Shopify and Recharge checkouts, automatically pulling it all into the platform. Shopify shares what they call Customer Journey and it details referrals and UTM parameters. Peel then defined their own channel mapping (including paid and organic channels) with 19 platforms so you can get the most accurate tracking of channel performance, without needing to set up the channel mapping yourself like required in Google Analytics or other data platforms. That means your job is to make sure you have your UTMs set up correctly and intentionally if you want the data! From there, you can run reports in just a couple clicks and create dashboards that are dedicated to tracking your channel performance and mapping out your customer journey.

*Note: Marketing attribution data in Peel exists as multi touch data specifically, which means it follows linear logic in assigning equal credit to all touchpoints across your customer journey. That means from the first touch to the last touch, every channel that contributed to converting your customer will get credit.

This differs greatly from single-touch attribution, often narrowed down to “first touch attribution” or “last touch attribution,” where only the first touchpoint or last touchpoint receives 100% of the credit for the conversion. These methods of attribution are far less complex than multi touch attribution and miss out on the nuance of all the content, ads, email, and other forms of engagement that contribute to converting your customer.

Peel accounts for all marketing touchpoints across all channels, so you can do things like compare new customers (first purchase) with returning customers (second purchase) to see how they are responding to your channels at different stages. We’ve included tons of depth to the segmentation you can bring to your multi channel attribution data. Let’s take a closer look.

Segmenting your Marketing Attribution Data

The deeper you dive with your marketing analytics, the more useful metrics you’ll have to inform your overall strategy. Peel provides that depth with easy-to-use tools that allow you to segment your marketing attribution data in the best way that works for you and your team. Along with the channel and UTM segmentation above, you can combine more segmentation for even finer granularity. Examples of this include segmenting by:

  • Discount codes
  • Product types
  • Variants
  • Locations
  • Subscribers

This gives you the power to slice your attribution data into analysis that gives you powerful marketing measurements and answers to your most burning ecommerce questions. What channel brings in the most subscribers? What is the average order value (AOV) by different channels or UTMs? What is my repurchase rate by channel? How does my 6-month lifetime value (LTV) compare from Facebook paid to organic search to SMS customers?

Multi touch attribution assigns credit to all touchpoints that contribute to the customer journeyj

These are all questions you can answer by segmenting your multi touch attribution data by further specific metrics. Our recent update even allows you to create custom segments that you can define for your business. Once your Shopify store is connected to Peel, and updated with UTM codes properly tagged for your channels, there’s virtually no limit to the unique segmentation you can do. Our tools set you up to gain this level of depth easily, with visualization that will have an instant impact on your marketing efforts.

Peel is all about ease of use without sacrificing depth. Our multi channel attribution features are no exception.

It’s time to not just understand your customer, but to have actionable insights, driven by UTM and attribution data to start crafting your customer journey with more intentionality. If you want to learn more about Peel and the user-friendly tools we provide you for slicing and dicing your data, check us out on the Shopify App Store or check out our greatest hits here.