Imagine this scenario: a person first comes across a brand through a TV advertisement, then looks at a related Facebook Ad while browsing the Internet on his laptop, opens up Amazon on his smartphone the next day to put one of the brand’s products into his cart, and finally makes the transaction from his personal laptop at home.
This is a quite common scenario for us today—in 2015, Gartner estimated that 20.8 billion connected things would be in use worldwide by 2020, and current market research shows that this estimate may have been exceeded in 2021.
As the level of synchronization between different devices keeps getting better every day, people are increasingly losing a sense of distinction between their behavior on these devices. For example, by signing in to Chrome with the same Google account you can easily access the same bookmarks, saved passwords, etc. on your phone as well as your laptop.
Brands have also taken note of this growing confluence between devices in recent years and this is reflected in the increased focus on delivering a seamless omnichannel experience. Now, new devices like smartwatches, smart TVs, and smart home assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s HomePod have also started figuring as a part of the customer journey.
For brands trying to communicate with their customers in a consistent manner and deliver an experience that does not become erratic when the customers switch devices, the landscape is more complicated than ever.
Failing to adapt to the customers’ cross-device activity can result in reduced customer loyalty, disconnected experiences, and a loss of ability to evaluate and improve the quality of a brand’s marketing efforts.
The way out of all this chaos lies in cross device tracking that enables brands to unify their view of customer activity across all devices and adopt an individual-based view of their customers.
What is cross-device tracking and why do businesses need it?
Cross-device tracking is an alternative to the cookie-based tracking that brands have traditionally used to track their customers’ online behavior. It refers to the technology that businesses can use to track their customers across different devices to obtain a unified view of the customer and avoid redundancies.
Third-party cookies used to be the primary tool at the disposal of businesses to keep a track of their customers. In addition to a few other functions, these cookies could capture customer data on a particular device and then use it the next time that customer interacted with the brand.
However, their use is seeing a steep decline ever since data giants like Google and Apple (along with popular browsers like Firefox and Safari) made announcements regarding their intention to stop the use of third-party cookies. Moreover, while cookies found ample use on desktops, they have generally proven to be ineffective within smartphone and tablet browsers because their functionality is restricted in specific apps.
Cross-device tracking with a people-based approach can perform better than cookies because it combines identifiers (hashed email addresses, IP addresses, loyalty membership numbers, account usernames, mobile ad IDs, etc.) across all devices and channels.
By mapping all these identifiers and the engagement data contained in them to individual customers, marketers can better understand their customers and target them with the right communication at the right time.
Following are the major benefits that a people-based approach to cross-device tracking can bring to your business.
A better understanding of the customer journey
According to statistics cited by Oberlo, smartphone usage is expected to continue to increase in the coming years, breaching seven billion in 2024 before rising further to 7.5 billion by 2026.
This will mean that even more customer-brand interactions will take place on mobile phones in the near future and marketers who continue to depend on cookies will miss out on a whole lot of customer insights.
By leveraging cross-device tracking, however, marketers can discover an individual customer’s behavior and needs across screens, which enables them to respond appropriately.
A more precise way of targeting the customers
Suppose that you want to show an ad to a customer at an interval of 2 days for 3 weeks because that specific frequency has proved beneficial for you in the past. But, without being able to recognize this customer as the same person across all his devices, how will you control the number of times your ad is shown to him?
Brands often run the risk of bombarding their customers with the same ads over and over again on different devices, which has an overall negative impact on brand identity. Moreover, since you treat the customer’s interaction through different devices as distinct customers, your data will be erroneous and you will not be able to measure the performance of your campaign accurately.
All these problems can be solved by adopting a people-centered cross-device tracking strategy that will allow you to target your customers precisely with messages that actually add value to their experience with the brand. By reducing the amount of resources wasted on refining redundant data you will also be able to focus more on improving your brand’s presence in the market.
A seamless customer experience across devices
Customers today have high expectations from brands and are quick to explore alternatives if these expectations are not met. As a business, you cannot afford to frustrate your customers and your aim should be to deliver a customer experience that does not merely satisfy, but delights them.
For instance, a customer who is browsing shoes on Amazon’s mobile app will continue to see relevant recommendations for shoes when he accesses Amazon’s website from his laptop. Such seamless integration between different devices feels natural to the customers and brands can only deliver it by using cross-device tracking in a way that focuses on the individuals using these devices.
The road to the future
With wearable tech becoming quite common and most of the devices around us turning “smart”, it must be quite clear to business owners and marketers that the road to the future will be traversed by focusing on people, rather than types of devices or screen sizes.
By employing deterministic matching to associate personal identifiers such as email addresses, physical addresses, IP addresses, phone numbers, etc. to an individual, brands can create ID graphs to identify customers across devices.
Doing so shifts the focus to a people-based approach and also allows businesses to use capabilities like cross device conversion tracking that go a long way towards saving resources and optimizing performance evaluations.