What are Touchpoints in a customer journey?
Below you can find a definition of a touchpoint in marketing attribution context:
“A touchpoint is an off-website interaction of a (potential) customer with your brand. For example, viewing or clicking on an ad, reading a blog post or viewing a Youtube video.”
Multiple touchpoints together form a customer journey. A customer journey is the path a customer takes before converting. In the marketing attribution scope, we mainly look at online transactions and online user journeys.
Customer journeys (and therefore, also touchpoints) are a crucial part of marketing attribution. This is because the user journey is the foundation of data insights. The mapping of the different touchpoints across the user journey will give your brand important information on its performance across channels.
Besides that, customer journeys and the touchpoints within the customer journeys are also crucial for attribution modeling. When determining the incremental value of a touchpoint, the attribution model often looks at its position within the user journey.
As explained above, a touchpoint is an interaction outside the company-owned website. These channels may sound familiar, as they are also used in Google Analytics:
Below are some examples of traffic sources:
Search traffic sources:
Social traffic sources:
As discussed above, there is a close relationship between touchpoints and attribution models. To quickly recap, an attribution model determines the reward that should be given to a certain touchpoint in a customer journey. This can be done based on many different metrics / KPIs, but in all cases the position of the touchpoint is the base of this calculation.
So far, we’ve been discussing touchpoints and what they do in a customer journey. But in reality, there are many touchpoints we can’t measure. The most common reasons for missing touchpoints are the following:
When tracking is not properly installed on a website, it may result in missing data. As this can be fixed relatively easily, every ecommerce website should measure everything they can on their own platform. Therefore, to achieve good tracking and complete data is often the first essential step in a multi-touch marketing attribution project.
Another tracking issue has to do with UTM tags. UTM tags are placed at the end of an URL and provide the tracking solution, usually Google Analytics, with information about the click. As marketers can set up and manage the UTM tagging of their campaigns themselves, it’s their responsibility to set this up correctly and make sure all traffic is being tagged in a consistent way.
Measuring cross-device can be tricky. When looking at the digital landscape, everyone can probably see that Google is currently the platform with the largest amount of data on cross-device tracking. They obtain this data from people logging in on Chrome on different devices, Gmail, Google Phones, etc.
However, the cross-device tracking in Google Analytics is still very limited. In order to truly measure their cross-device activity, marketers of ecommerce websites are still responsible to come up with some smart solutions for cross device tracking.
Even though we are focusing on online data when applying multi touch attribution for e-commerce, many touchpoints (can) still happen offline. Think of television or radio commercials, out of home advertising, newspapers, or even word-of-mouth. Even though there are many different attempts in measuring data on these offline touchpoints, with the current state of technology nobody is able to measure their true performance and impact. Therefore, it’s important to keep in mind that not all touchpoints can be measured. This situation is known as the ROPO effect.
How to deal with missing touchpoints?
As mentioned before, there are many different reasons why touchpoints might be missing in user journeys. How should you deal with these missing data? Below you can find a quick and easy roadmap on how to approach this situation.
Identify low hanging fruit: Some issues are more difficult to be fixed than others. Therefore, you should first identify the issues that are easy to fix; for example, think of missing UTM-tags. In this way, you can improve your data quickly and with minimal amount of work.
Advanced optimizations: Next, after you have fixed smaller and easy to fix issues, identify larger projects. This could be an experiment on how to track cross-device.
Run experiments: Once you know what you want to improve, make a plan and see how you can set up an experiment to investigate how to improve your data even further. Make sure you set these experiments up in a way that doesn’t affect your other data and that you can measure the results.
How to optimize touchpoints
It has become clear in this article that a user journey consists of one or multiple touchpoints. As an (e-commerce) marketer, you should include in your goals the optimisation of these touchpoints. Besides providing your customers with the best experience throughout their journey, you want this to be as short as possible. The reason is that every additional touchpoint usually costs you additional advertising budget.
When looking at the user journeys, you want to make sure that every touchpoint in those journeys adds incremental value. You can use multi-touch marketing attribution to measure this. If it turns out that some touchpoints have a very low incremental value, it might be better to remove these from the customer journey.
For example, in the affiliate marketing industry there is a lot of discussion about the incremental value of a voucher code website in the customer journey.
A very common scenario is when a consumer is ready to buy and sees the option to apply a voucher code on the purchase page. The customer can very easily go to Google search, find a voucher code and then apply it to the order (s)he would make anyway. In this case, the voucher code website becomes an additional touchpoint, while we can all agree that the incremental value of the specific voucher code website is very low. This kind of touchpoints you want to optimize.
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