Attribution basics

The Attribution Academy is filled with all the information you need about marketing attribution.



What are Touchpoints?

Below you can find a definition of a touchpoint in marketing attribution context:

“A touchpoint is an off-website interaction with a (potential) customer. For example, viewing or clicking on an ad, reading a blog post or viewing a Youtube video.”

Customer Journey

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 journeys.

Customer journeys (and therefore, also touchpoints) are a crucial part of marketing attribution. This is because the customer journey is the foundation of data insights.

Besides that, customer journeys and the touchpoints within the customer journeys are also crucial for attribution modelling. When determining the incremental value of a touchpoint, the attribution model often looks at the position of the touchpoint within the customer journey.

Traffic Sources

As explained above, a touchpoint is an interaction off the company-owned website. These interactions can occur on different platforms: traffic sources or channels. These channels may sound familiar, as they are also used in Google Analytics:

Channels in Google Analytics

Below are a few examples of traffic sources:

  • Paid) Search traffic sources:
    • Google
    • Bing
    • Baidu
  • Social traffic sources:
    • Facebook
    • Instagram
    • TikTok

Attribution Models

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 fundament of this calculation.

Missing touchpoints

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. Below are a few of the most common reasons of missing touchpoints described.

Tracking Issues

When tracking is not properly installed on a website, this can result in missing data. As this can be fixed relatively easily, every ecommerce website should be measuring everything they can on their own platform. Therefore, good tracking and complete data is often the essential first 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 a URL and provide the tracking solution (often 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.

Missing organic search data

Since October 2011, Google changed their settings and ever since then website owners are mainly seeing (not provided) as a source in the Google Analytics when looking at the organic search results. Since 2011, Google isn’t showing the actual search query of the user.

The thing is, Google still has that data, but doesn’t share this with it’s clients. According To Google, the reason for this is to protect users privacy. Missing this organic search data, leaves a huge gap in determining the incremental value of organic search activities.

Neil Patel wrote a great article on [‘How to Unlock Your ‘Not Provided’ Keywords in Google Analytics’](How to Unlock Your ‘Not Provided’ Keywords in Google Analytics).

Cross device

Measuring cross-device can be tricky. When looking at the digital landscape, Google is currently probably 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 cross-device, it’s still up to the e-commerce website themselves to come up with some smart solutions for cross device tracking.


Even though we are focussing 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 the true performance and impact of these touchpoints. Therefore, it’s important to keep in mind that not all touchpoints can be measured.

How to deal with missing touchpoints?

As illustrated, there are many different reasons why touchpoint might be missing in customer journeys. How should you deal with this missing data? Below you can find a quick and easy roadmap on how to approach this.

1. Identify low hanging fruit Some issues are more difficult to fix than other. Therefore you should first identify the issues that are easy to fix; think of missing UTM-tags for example. That way, you can improve your data quickly with minimal amount of work.

2. Advanced optimizations Next, after you have fixed the smaller and easy to fix issues, identify to larger projects. This could be an experiment on how to track cross-device, specifically for your website.

3. 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.

How to optimize touchpoints

It has become clear in this article that a customer journey consists of one or multiple touchpoints. As an (e-commerce) marketeer, one of your goals should be to optimize these touchpoints. Besides providing your customers with the best experience throughout the journey, you want the journey to be as short as possible. Because every additional touchpoint could costs you advertising budget.

When looking at the customer journeys, you want to make sure that every touchpoint in that customer journey adds incremental value. You can use multi-touch marketing attribution to measure this. If it turns out touchpoints have a very low incremental value, it might be better to remove touchpoint 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 might very well go to Google search, find a voucher code and then applies thies to the order he was already about to buy. The voucher code website becomes an additional touchpoint, whilehile we can all agree that the incremental value of the voucher code website was very low. These are the kinds of touchpoints you want to optimize.