People don’t access the Internet just one single way anymore, and old tracking methods no longer work. What’s here now and on the horizon to solve the problem.
No one would dispute that most people now use multiple devices throughout their daily lives. Whether it’s a mobile phone, a desktop computer at work or a poolside laptop, technology has infiltrated our lives from sun-up to sun-down. And since advertisers want to reach people whenever wherever and they may consume their news and entertainment (collectively, “media”), ads now appear on all devices and across all forms of media. Experia recently released an analysis of how US adults spend their weekly time with respective devices and media:
Right now, although television dominates device time-of-use, most US household TVs still do not enable a user to interact and transact as they can on Internet-connected devices…but that’s about to change. The mainstream adoption of Smart TV will play well into an already-observed consumer behavior: People prefer to complete tasks on larger screens. According to new Facebook-sponsored research by Gfk, approximately 40% of US and UK adults start an activity on one device (primarily a smartphone) and then switch to a larger device when ready to transact. The more devices a person owns, the greater the likelihood for them to device-switch, and Pew Research tracks at least seven different devices (separating cell and smartphone use and combining desktop and laptop use).
This device-switching behavior really throws a wrench into ad campaign tracking, and with the growing prevalence of multiple devices in our lives, more than ever advertisers have to look beyond the existing workhorse – cookie tracking – in order to truly see the big picture of campaign results. Even Facebook has announced that it will be working on a new means to track cross-device campaigns.
Not Yet a Perfect Science
By all accounts, current cross-device tracking solutions are still not a perfect science, and it’s still pretty complicated to explain and understand. Companies throw around different lingo (“inferred device matching,” “deterministic device recognition,” “login-based matching,” and “probabilistic device recognition” among others), and I have yet to hear a way to actually audit or double-check the data provided. All methods rely on aspects of a device user’s digital footprint (or perhaps, better still, digital crumbs) that help assemble a quasi-complete jigsaw puzzle.
Login-based matching, for example, draws conclusions based on same-account logging in, regardless of a device one uses. Device-matching uses multiple IDs and identifiers such as a phone ID, IP addresses, hardware and software IDs, etc to look for overlapping patterns that could indicate the same person using different devices. I’m sure you’re already thinking of ways these solutions could be “fooled” by shared devices, different people logging into the same user account, and various ways and places any given device may be accessing the Internet. Like I said, it’s not a perfect science. Below I link to some useful articles that dive into this far further than I can at this point.
- “Why Device Recognition May Make Marketing Campaigns Better,” AdExchanger
- “Cross-Device Measurement in Google Analytics Will Turn Mobile Marketing On Its Head,” eConsultancy
- “The Simple Rules of Cross-Device Marketing,” iMedia Connection
Who To Watch
Two things about this subject: 1) We need to quickly come to universal adoption of a single descriptor for this challenging scenario. I think “cross-device” should be the clear winner, as opposed to “multi-device,” “cross- or multi-screen” or any cutesy proprietary terms tech companies may try to market. Doing so just slows down the clarity of understand. 2) The cross-device situation presents a very real problem for campaign tracking and one that requires solving…quickly.
Attempting to simplify cross-device analysis with their own solutions, players like Google (with its Universal Analytics, Drawbridge, Tapad, Experian’s AdTruth have entered the arms race, now with Facebook on their heels. Plenty of other companies like Adelphic Mobile, Lotame, Unify, and Struq have also entered the cross-device targeting and ad delivery fray, who will be expected to deliver cross-device metrics as a consequence as well. Look for me to add to this list over time, because it’s bound to grow as this market heats up.
As consumers depend on more and more devices to conduct research and move to purchasing, the ad industry cannot ignore tackling cross-device tracking.