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May 31, 2016

Consumers may be increasingly glued to their smartphones, but that doesn't mean they're not using their tablets, laptops, and other Internet-enabled gadgets. As a marketer, you need to be able to connect with people across all these platforms, which is where cross-device tracking plays a key role. A study by Google revealed that 90 percent of consumers are "sequential screeners" (people who use multiple devices to achieve a single goal). So, a shopper may start checking out bus fares on their laptop, look again later on their tablet, and then complete the ticket purchase on their smartphone. As a 2015 AdExchanger article points out, until recently, cross-device identification meant merely linking desktop computers, tablets, and smartphones—but because of the rise of connected devices, wearables, and the Internet of Things at large, cross-device activity and the marketing potential behind it is exploding. Here's how you can use cross-device tracking in your campaigns.

Know Thy Consumer—and Their Devices
So what can you do to seize the cross-screen moment? One way to take advantage of cross-device tracking is to use it to identify individual Internet users across their various connected devices. The point here is to execute appropriate retargeting, so that when a consumer goes from one device to another, you can help them to pick up where they left off, rather than naively greeting them as though they're a stranger because you don't recognize their device. The golden rule "know thy consumer" doesn't go very far if you have no idea how that person changes from one device to the next.

As Digiday explains, there are two cross-device tracking methods: "deterministic" and "probabilistic." The former occurs when publishers and platforms request that users sign in to a site via a registered username or email from whatever device they're using. The probabilistic method is decidedly more complicated and works by aggregating the data inferred from ads served across various user devices—including IP address, app, browser, and a hunk of statistics that take time to build and assess. It's up to you and your ad tech provider and/or publisher to choose your approach. Either way, being able to accurately identify a return visitor and target them accordingly is something you definitely want to take advantage of.

Target Devices and Track ROI
As with any aspect of a marketing campaign, you should have clear goals when implementing cross-device tracking, and you must consider the benefits unique to the process. Again, you want to use it to retarget and continue communications where the consumer left off, but you also want to leverage it to better understand how consumers are using their respective devices to engage with your brand.

Let's say you own a hotel, and you've launched a marketing campaign across mobile and desktop, featuring a clickable ad that offered a coupon. Did more people click on mobile than on desktop? How many people used the coupon on their mobile device versus as a printout? This is essentially what B&B Hotels did with their cross-device strategy. They didn't just use it to reach consumers across all devices—they also analyzed the performance of their digital marketing investments.

You'll want to keep track of which of your ads are being clicked on and via what device. Do people tend to make more purchases via your app than on their desktop? Are they more active on the desktop after engaging on their tablet? Ask the questions that will provide the data you need to build stronger marketing campaigns and ultimately become smarter about your consumer's needs.

≥≥ Need a Shortcut?
1. Cross-device targeting allows you to engage with consumers uninterrupted across their online journey, whether they're using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or any other connected device.
2. There's the "deterministic" and the "probabilistic" approach to tracking. The former requires that the user sign in, while the latter works more with ad data and statistics.
3. The point is to retarget effectively, but also to guide the consumer along the path to purchase and to learn what's working (and what isn't) for your brand across all platforms.
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