The Importance of Multi-Touch Attribution for Auto Sales

By: Felicia Savage

When something is attributed, that means it’s assigned to an obvious cause or source. Quotes are attributed to their speakers, for example. But it can be a lot harder to attribute someone’s decision to come to your car lot for a test drive to a certain piece of marketing or web feature.


Online marketing directors in the automotive industry can seriously benefit from knowing how to attribute their leads. Unfortunately, the lack of data and limited tools have made it a challenge. This puts today’s automotive marketers at a critical crossroads. Early adopters of multi-touch attribution might be poised to take the auto market by storm, under the right conditions.


Here’s what you need to know about how a multi-touch attribution strategy can help you get the most out of your car dealership’s advertising budget, now and in the future:


What Is Multi-Touch Attribution?


A recent study showed that nearly 60% of a customer’s time is spent searching on the internet; and that 46% used multiple devices to complete their research. For auto dealerships, however, this information is just the beginning. Once someone gets on the Internet to look for a car, they are flooded with options and offers. So where and how is it easiest to stand out?


Dan Moore, president of Vistadash, tells us that multi-touch attribution works by showing dealerships the path each individual buyer took on this journey from start to purchase. “If I see an online car shopper went to, then got pulled back in by paid search ranking, then went to, and then finally ended up at the dealer…. well, I have a little more insight into what helps sell cars,” Dan said. “That path from first online impression to the dealership is the biggest thing car dealers are looking to understand and puzzle out right now, and multi-touch attribution tracking is how they can do it.”


How is Multi-Touch Attribution for Auto Dealers Still Improving?


As much as the Internet is the marketplace of today, auto dealers still frequently rely on more traditional methods of advertising like direct mail, television and radio spots, and print ads. One of the challenges Dan Moore sees to applying this technology is the need for these third-parties and other vendors to get on board.


“ and don’t communicate with each other or send each other data,” he said. “A custom view of Google Analytics can show you how much web traffic came to you from each source, but even that is just a percentage. Even a CRM tool only knows where the lead came from, not where they started from.”


Multi-touch attribution also takes time to work. At least 30 days worth of data is usually needed to get even a basic model, and that might continue to change depending on other factors. Dan predicts that the dealerships who can find tools that give them data in real-time will find an advantage.


“What we need is more real-time actionable insights that can be taken advantage of as you consume the data,” he said. That’s why interactive experiences for potential customers are becoming more common in the auto industry, delivering 5x more information about leads to auto sales staff and driving 28% more car shoppers to actually show up for their scheduled test drive.


Why Do Auto Dealers Need Multi-Touch Attribution?


Not only can Multi-touch attribution help the marketing team figure out if they’re utilizing their budget properly, but it could lead to a whole revolution of success across all departments. At many dealerships, the marketing, inventory, and sales departments are all operated by different managers, each trying to keep their own part of the engine running.


However, multi-touch attribution pushes these professionals to think about the experience of the purchase from beginning to end. If the inventory listed on one site is performing better than another, might that information help your inventory manager do a better job? Furthermore, an auto dealer must consider another thing: is it the inventory or the third-party listing site that is really responsible for the lead?


“This is where attribution becomes fun,” Dan said. “Everyone is focused on it, but the definition of who gets the credit is different based on who gives it.” With multi-touch attribution at work, it becomes more obvious that credit is likely shared by all three departments.


“Once you get those groups collaborating, you’re really creating an effective strategy. You know the leads are coming into a good ecosystem, and when you miss an opportunity you might have a better idea of why. The level of intelligence can give us insight into the true reasons for the outcome.”


Automotive industry marketers and car dealership owners know that every investment needs to prove itself. Multi-touch attribution gives these individuals the opportunity to see which current areas of marketing spend are actually bringing returns more often, and which ones are white noise.