Cross-device usage is rising with users moving across many devices and screens throughout the day – often simultaneously. In fact, recent data from Google indicated that 90% of people move between different devices to complete a single action. TV doesn’t even hold people’s full attention like it used to.
Having multiple touchpoints is nothing new to marketers: We all know that multiple touchpoints are necessary to make a prospect act on our messages. So how do marketers keep their messages in front of customers and prospects while they journey across devices? The answer is cross-device targeting.
What is Cross-device Targeting?
Cross-device targeting allows advertisers to target consumers across multiple devices at the same time. This means that a single user can be tracked no matter what type of device or app they’re using, and marketing can follow them as they move from one device to the next.
The goal of cross-device targeting is to be able to recognize and target the same person whether they’re using their laptop, smart watch, phone or connected TV. It’s also essential for mobile retargeting. For example, if someone visits a website from their laptop, marketers want to be able to send them ads on their smartphone as well.
How Can You Track an Individual?
Traditional tracking involves using cookies (desktop or laptop browsers) or via mobile IDs on mobile devices (apps, smartphones and tablets). This type of tracking, however, can only obtain data users on a single device or app. They can’t follow users across multiple devices. Other methods are required.
One way is to have users sign into either platforms or publishers. For example, Google users sign into their accounts on all of their devices for syncing purposes. Google – and other properties – can track this user no matter what device he is using.
The other – and more problematic way – is by aggregating data across multiple sources (i.e. cookies, logins and mobile IDs) to try and identify users, and link their data (involving multiple, single data points). This helps publishers and platforms build unique user profiles or device fingerprints. The linking is based on how likely it is that a particular data point is connected to a particular device fingerprint. If the likelihood is high, then it can be assumed that this data connects to this particular device/user.
What is the Reality?
Cross-device targeting has the potential to allow for more people-based targeting – and marketers are clamoring for this ability. The reality, however, is that the true ability to do this may be years away. In fact, a recent survey found that only 6% of marketers worldwide were able to get a comprehensive view of users across multiple devices.
Eventually, platforms will be able to create unique IDs for users that will follow them from device to device. Until that time, marketers will have to be careful about platforms promising cross-device targeting capabilities.