Customer Journey Attribution Reporting: How to Crack the Code

Table of Contents

So you’ve carefully strategized each step of your customer interaction. Now, you’re looking to gauge how effective it is, and the impact it’s having on ROI. Sounds simple enough. But in reality, this is not always easy to do.

Enter customer journey attribution reporting—an intensive customer journey analysis approach. It involves assessing multiple touchpoints and marketing channels to track a specific conversion: be it an individual who is making their first purchase with you or someone who is downloading an ebook from your website.

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at customer journey attribution reporting. We’ll analyze its benefits and limitations, and see how it compares with marketing contribution.

Key Takeaways

  • Customer journey attribution can improve your CX by helping you to understand what marketing efforts work- and which you should cut out.
  • Attribution can help you pinpoint moments of customer abandonment, offer an omnichannel experience, and create a more profitable customer journey.
  • There are five types of customer attribution models: first touch, last touch, linear, time decay, and position based models. Each comes with their own pros and cons.

How can customer journey attribution help you improve CX?

Funnelytics customer journey attribution platform
An average customer doesn’t purchase a product on a whim. They go on a journey of interacting with your brand through multiple channels and touchpoints before making up their mind. And this journey isn’t the same for every customer.

For example, when you post an ad on Facebook, chances are some potential customers might fill up the registration form right after visiting your landing page. In the same vein, some might check out your social media and multiple other channels before making a decision.

And even when your marketing strategy works out in the end, the timelines can differ massively. Some customers might want to conduct heavy research before deciding to purchase. Others might end up making their first purchase after following you for a significant period.

That makes it difficult to understand which marketing actions lead to that specific conversion. Knowing what worked best is critical, especially when you’re on a tight marketing budget. This is where attribution reporting helps you see where to invest your marketing budget for the best ROI.

“It helps in understanding which marketing efforts are working and which aren’t, allowing for better allocation of resources. We’ve seen improved ROI, as we can fine-tune campaigns based on data-driven insights, and ultimately, it leads to a more personalized customer experience.”Vladimir Terekhov, CEO at Attract Group

Overcoming the challenges of complex customer journeys with attribution

Funnelytics customer journey attribution mapping tool
  • Pinpointing moments of customer abandonment: Per a survey by Adobe, the average funnel conversion rate across industries is 3%. That means the majority of leads drop off at some points in their customer journey or stay inactive. If you don’t track and optimize the points where they typically drop off, you may see more drop-offs and a decrease in customer engagement.
  • Offering an omnichannel experience: Customers expect to be able to get in touch where it suits them. But most brands find it challenging to break communication silos in a multi-channel customer journey. Often, customers end up repeating their queries to different departments, which ruins the entire experience for them. You need to capture these cross-channel behaviors and provide your customers with resolution through relevant content in the right channels.
  • Creating a one-sided customer journey: Often, brands focus on how they want their customers to interact with them, and forget to see their customer journeys from a customer’s point of view. By considering how customers research and buy, and what they expect at every step of the process, customer-centric businesses can be as much as 60% more profitable.
Here’s how customer journey attribution can help:

  • You can break down complex customer journeys and understand how each marketing channel supports conversion.
  • You can identify the top-converting channels and allocate your marketing resources to those channels.
  • It helps you create content and messaging that resonates with customers at the right time and in the right context.
  • It helps you identify points of friction in the customer journey, so you can make it smoother and more satisfactory for your customers.

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Types of attribution models (and how they improve your customer journey)

First touch model

“Understand that customer journey attribution is not quite going to be an exact science. With so many different platforms and tools being in the mix, it will feel like you are stitching together a quilt from different fabric patches. But if you use the right tools, it can be easier to understand the behaviors in your journey and get a better understanding of your customers.”—Joe Carasin, Owner at Karasin PPC

The first model you can make use of as you aim to puzzle out attribution is the first touch model. This model attributes all of the conversion credit to the customer’s first-ever interaction with a brand. For example, if a customer finds you through search, SEO will get 100% conversion credit. This is regardless of whether the real conversion happens a month later through an offer you sent to them via email.

Pros
  • It simplifies the marketing attribution process.
  • It works wonders for a shorter sales cycle. You can simply identify the most effective channels for your initial customer touchpoint and tailor your marketing efforts accordingly.
  • It’s often effective for brand awareness campaigns. You can enhance the early stages of the customer journey and set the foundation for successful customer engagement.
Cons
  • It’s an all-or-nothing approach—if conversion doesn’t happen through the first channel, all your efforts go in vain.
  • It neglects the impact of subsequent touchpoints, which means it can present an inaccurate representation of a customer’s path to conversion.
  • It prevents businesses from diversifying their marketing efforts.
  • It’s ineffective for situations where multiple customer interactions are involved before conversion.

Last touch model

Similar to the first touch attribution model, the last touch also credits one touchpoint for conversion. Except in this case, it’s given to the final touchpoint that directly leads to the sale.

Say a customer purchases a smartphone by clicking on a Facebook ad despite discovering the same phone through a Google search initially. In this case, the Facebook ad gets all the credit for the conversion.

It’s often a good idea to combine both first and last-touch models to gain a more comprehensive understanding of customer behavior and make more informed marketing decisions. Another option is to combine a last-touch and multi-touch model, as done by Attract Group:

“The main limitation is the complexity of tracking every interaction, especially with cross-device usage and offline touchpoints. To account for this, we use a combination of last-touch and multi-touch attribution models, depending on the campaign and the customer journey stage. We also incorporate qualitative data from customer feedback to fill in the gaps that quantitative data can’t cover,” says CEO Vladimir Terekhov.

Pros
  • It’s easy to understand and implement and simplifies budget allocation for you.
  • It’s often effective for conversion-focused campaigns. You’d optimize the steps preceding the final touchpoint. This includes streamlining the checkout process, improving landing page design, and refining your call-to-action strategies.
Cons
  • It neglects the path a customer took for conversion. They may have been interacting with your brand in multiple ways in the past, but this approach won’t consider any of that.
  • You may end up over-investing in late-stage marketing efforts and neglecting the importance of earlier stages.

Linear model

The linear attribution model assigns equal credits to all the touchpoints throughout the customer journey. For example, if a customer follows you through word-of-mouth marketing and then later decides to purchase from you after reading your blogs, both channels will get 50% credit each.

Pros
  • You get to invest evenly in multi-channel marketing, which provides you with plenty of opportunities to analyze custom behavior in different stages.
  • It offers a holistic view of the customer journey, allowing you to understand the cumulative impact of all marketing efforts across various channels.
Cons
  • Since equal credit is given to all touchpoints, you won’t know which interactions were the most influential in the decision-making process.
  • In practice, not all customers follow a linear path to conversion. This is why this approach may not reflect real customer behavior.

Time decay model

In this model, you assign credit for conversion to the touchpoints that are closer in time to the conversion.

Consider this: A customer saw a display ad for your product three months ago. A month later, they found a review of your product on YouTube and ended up watching it. After that, they started following you on social media. About a week ago, they signed up for your email newsletter and ended up purchasing your product yesterday.

In this case, your email newsletter and social media will receive more credit for conversion than the display ad and YouTube review they initially saw.

Pros
  • This model is fairly balanced when compared to first and last touch models, as it recognizes the multiple touchpoints involved in a customer journey.
  • It works well for businesses that are big on building relationships and communities.
  • It’s especially effective for businesses with longer sales funnels. Since customers engage with a brand over extended periods, their recent interactions with a brand have a stronger influence on their decision-making.
Cons
  • It’s not effective for businesses with short sales cycles. As the time decay model credits interactions occurring closer to the conversion event, it may not accurately represent the influence of earlier interactions in quick decision-making processes.
  • It’s not reflective of all customer behavior—some may get influenced by early touchpoints and make decisions independently of the recent interactions.

Position based model

The position-based attribution model distributes the credit to all the touchpoints, including first, last, and intermediate touchpoints. Here’s how.

  1. The first touchpoint gets 40% credit.
  2. The last touchpoint gets 40% credit.
  3. The remaining 20% is distributed equally among the intermediate touchpoints.
Pros
  • It follows a more balanced approach than the other models as it recognizes the influence of all the touchpoints.
  • Businesses can make an informed decision on allocating their marketing efforts.
  • It particularly favors B2B businesses, as their sales cycles are longer. This allows them to look at every touchpoint and closely address friction points.
Cons
  • It’s relatively complex when compared to other attribution models.
  • It may not suit all scenarios, particularly those with very straightforward customer journeys.

The limitations of customer journey attribution

Funnelytics complex customer journey mapping in action
Despite its benefits, the customer journey attribution approach has some flaws.

“Customer journey attribution is difficult for a few reasons. Sometimes it is hard to track across different devices (a customer clicks an ad on their desktop, then a few hours later makes a purchase from their mobile device, for example).

Customer journeys have also become much more complex, with even low-cost purchase decisions requiring more and more effort on the part of brands, and to make this harder, attribution models aren’t really helpful as each channel will have its own way of measuring conversions.

When analyzing customer journeys, you need to have a good way to incorporate clean data, which isn’t always easy to do.”Joe Carasin, Owner at Karasin PPC


  • You only analyze what analytics software can measure. This includes click-throughs, page views, and other metrics that drive traffic. However, there’s more to it than that—your organic marketing channels continuously work in the background to nurture your customers. Your attribution report only factors in the measurable metrics while ignoring the impact of your strong social media presence and content marketing efforts.
  • While mainly focusing on conversion, it ignores the fact that you’re not completely in charge; your customers are. They have the means to conduct research before their first touchpoint with you, and you cannot possibly track all of that. In fact, in a recent survey, 27% of internet users said they find out about new brands through word-of-mouth marketing. And 23% discover new brands from TV shows or films. All of this is hard to track.
  • It creates chaos in internal teams as everyone stresses about getting the credit for conversion. This overlooks the fact that marketing is a collective effort.
Given these limitations, instead of allocating your marketing resources by crediting individual touchpoints like the attribution model, you can try to measure the impact of your marketing efforts as a whole.

You can achieve this using marketing contribution. This concept is similar to attribution but focuses on customer behavior at each touchpoint, rather than conversion. Instead of asking, “Which sources lead to revenue?” contribution asks, “What patterns in behavior result in our desired outcome?”

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Customer journey attribution vs contribution: which is best?

Customer journey contribution is a broader concept that looks at the overall impact of marketing—the relative impact of different marketing efforts on conversion and revenue events.

While the attribution approach tells you where to spend your money and where you shouldn’t, contribution tells you this, and everything else that comes in between.

Attribution models can become complex, especially when dealing with multiple touchpoints and interactions. Marketing contribution simplifies the analysis by looking at the overall impact, making it easier for decision-makers to understand.

For example, imagine a retail chain planning its marketing budget for the upcoming year. They’d aim to allocate resources to high-impact marketing strategies. Depending on their goals and their customers’ needs, these strategies could be online advertising, in-store promotions, or a loyalty program.

Get the whole picture with accurate contribution and attribution analytics

While customer journey contribution is the clear winner when it comes to gaining a big-picture perspective and assessing the long-term impact of marketing efforts, it can still go hand in hand with attribution.

Particularly when dealing with long and complex sales cycles, attribution makes sense when looking to identify the effective touchpoints and see the contributions different marketing efforts make to your business’s bottom line.

Funnelytics helps you map this complex set of information on a visual canvas—so you don’t have to keep switching between tools to capture customer data. Visualize all parts of your customer journeys with ease, so you can move forward with an impactful and data-driven marketing strategy.

Sign up for a free trial today!

Start your free trial of Funnelytics Performance

Unleash the full potential of Funnelytics with a free 14-day trial and get access to the platform that will help you plan, measure and optimize your customer journeys.

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Mikael Dia

Mikael Dia

Founder & CEO @ Funnelytics Inc.

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