The rise of cross-device attribution
You may start reading this on your laptop at work, then you get busy with a million other things and have to stop. So you pick it up later from your tablet while you’re at home. Or maybe from your phone while you’re on the treadmill at the gym. In today’s world, we all have multiple devices that we use at different times of the day. Marketers call this cross-device. Users call it the norm. The challenge however is more than just creating content and advertising that can live at any size and on any device, it’s connecting the dots between the devices to determine accurate attribution.
Let’s begin by understanding the variances between the two subjects. Cross-channel attribution explains which media, emails, and search keywords are the most effective, assuming that users could have been across all of them. Cross-device attribution provides information related to the experiences of each consumer across different devices. Cookies are essential for these two to work; however, cross-device attribution goes beyond by revealing that a single user can be represented across multiple cookies. Implicitly, cross-device attribution is a subset of cross-channel attribution. The next step, after understanding what campaigns are having a positive influence, is to understand the number of times a user interacted with each campaign. A key part to accomplish this is to be able to track users’ behavior across multiple devices.
How cross-device attribution has evolved
A few years ago, the desktop was the only device where ads could be delivered. What this meant was that you could always safely assume that if your campaign had a reach of 100 users, you were more certainly sure that all 100 unique users were touched by your campaign. But as we all know, that is no longer the case today, where users may be exposed to the same message multiple times on multiple devices and across many different marketing channels. A potential scenario from this environment is that a user may visit or purchase on a website on one device, but they could have easily been exposed to the campaign on a different one. In general terms, this level of difficulty did not exist until recent years.
What this challenge brings is a disconnect between what those metrics are that were once valid and the accuracy of what they mean in today’s scenario. A consumer with two devices may look like two unique users in our data.
What we need to do is redirect our thinking towards thinking about people and devices when analyzing our data. In the near future, the term “unique user” may be an obsolete term. It’s very important that in order to achieve cross-channel attribution while considering cross-device data, we need to understand that “users” and “devices” no longer have the same meaning.
A potential resolution on the horizon is the data-management platform (DMP). Once companies get a tight grip on DMPs to successfully gather and compile first-party deterministic cross-device data, the more chances they will have to carry out the marketing initiatives with a more holistic picture. What this can potentially allow is to move customers through the sales funnel with a sequential, more targeted, messaging approach. The use of unique user-generated IDs has started to become more popular and it’s helping marketers identify their consumers and their activity across devices.
A huge competitive advantage can be achieved by being able to message a single user across multiple devices, which in turn, can provide a better experience for the user. Being able to determine that a user’s path to conversion included three digital channels is a step in the right direction, but the giant leap in attaining a complete attribution picture is in being able to determine that a user’s path to conversion included three digital channels across three devices. Attribution is more efficient when data at the most granular level is complete and accurate.
Cross-channel and cross-device reporting are critical in order to have an efficient data-driven marketing plan. At a higher level, cross-channel attribution can provide data that can be acted upon quickly, thus it is paramount that marketers are ready to drill down into cross-device to have a more complete attribution picture. The premise is that we have to look at these two attribution aspects and their intertwining as an opportunity rather than a complexity that cannot be leveraged.