Cross-device tracking: The Impact on Personalization

40% of consumers begin an activity on one device and traverse to another to finish the purchase.  (Source-Listrak)

It is evident that consumers are now using an array of devices (read: mobile phones, laptops, tablets, desktops at work and home) to reach your e-commerce website, research and scan through your products, consider buying, and then finally making that purchase. It is also evident, that there is now a change in consumer shopping behavior, with shoppers embarking on a journey before making a purchase – with a multitude of sessions generated during the course of that journey, fittingly termed “moments of truth”. This change in consumer behavior is forcing a shift in the way marketers are planning their strategies to reach their “ideal” consumer at a given moment of truth. A tried and tested approach that maximizes consumer engagement in such a complex scenario is one that revolves around contextual personalization.

However, determining the framework of an effective personalization engine is not an easy task. It requires creating customer personas and having a deep understanding of the consumer’s path to purchase – who they are, what they are looking for at any given point in time, and the best medium and message to engage them with. And, to be able to do this across channels such that you have one consistent, unified view of that consumer. The reality is that, until you are able to ensure the consistency and integrity of your users’ context, it is very difficult to devise a data-backed contextual personalization engine that truly drives engagement for your e-commerce website.

With this post we would like to share our insights on the ‘what and why’ of cross-device tracking, and its impact on building an effective personalization engine.

So how has it been done until now?

Traditionally, marketers have had to view such multi-faceted user activity in their silos – to identify multiple sessions as belonging to one customer. This was again challenging and time consuming, and practically impossible in most scenarios. When we were living in a largely desktop-centric world, cookies had proven to be effective, but they have lost their relevance in the mobile context, especially when you consider cross-device scenarios. This limitation stems primarily from the fact that cookies are attached to the device they were created on (Cookies are those small blocks of text code that go on the user’s browser and account usage, when a certain user visits a website), but gets further complicated by the fact that third-party cookies are disabled by default on the vast majority of mobile devices. If the consumer deletes the cookies and then visits your website, the system will re-profile them again. To be clear, cookies serve a valuable purpose even in the mobile context, but that purpose is limited to tracking and managing personalization at a single-channel level, something that’s increasingly becoming a minority scenario.

Cross-device tracking- optimize your personalization engine

Cross device tracking is essentially a method to identify a user across multiple devices regardless of the channel or the platform they use to engage with the brand. This is done either -by drawing a credible picture of the consumer through algorithmic methods (Probabilistic approach), or by having the consumer log-in to your website or a different channel (Deterministic approach). The intent is to create a profile of the consumer in an attempt to reach her with the right message at the right moment, without being intrusive. This technology can help brands better understand consumer behavior and their multi-channel path to purchase, thereby enabling them to create highly targeted marketing strategies across the various touch-points of interest.

So, why should cross-device tracking matter to you?

The value is really in the rich data that you are able to gather from your tracking, which in turn heavily influences how targeted your marketing campaigns are. We find it easier to understand the inferences by considering these questions:

  • How do I paint a comprehensive picture of the consumer, to form a data-backed engagement strategy?
  • Are my targeted campaigns reaching my consumers at the right moment(s) of truth?
  • How can I effectively measure which channels contribute the most – so that I could optimize my campaigns and reward that source?
  • How can my website’s personalization engine run seamlessly across channels, and provide my consumers a consistent brand experience?
  • How can I reach consumers regardless of the device/platform/channel they are on, to not only motivate them to engage with my brand, but also to have them coming back as repeat customers?

89% of agency employees agree that ‘Not being able to track cross-device campaigns is holding back the growth of mobile’ (Source: IAB Mobile Agency Snapshot Study, 2015)

Traditional analytics software limit your ability to accurately determine attribution for the various channels/device that you are driving engagement on for your brand. The application of the data generated with cross-device tracking is useful at many levels. Cross-device tracking can provide better visibility and understanding of your cross-channel data and the ROI generated through your marketing campaigns. This consequently assists in creating aggressive A/B testing strategies, effective website design and generally a more holistic personalization approach – and consequently, directly improving your conversion rates.

How will it impact your customers?

  • Cross-device tracking will provide consumers a truly seamless shopping experience regardless of the device/channel/platform they are on. The marketing messages that they receive from the e-commerce brand will be consistent and contextual, and hence, helpful in their path to purchase.
  • In a world where consumer expectations continue to move higher and your competition (read Amazon) keeps raising the bar, presenting your customers with seamless personalization across channels should almost be considered table stakes. Cross-device tracking enables you to provide contextually relevant messaging to your consumers, reaching them at the moments that can directly impact their purchase decision. It results in a cohesive shopping experience that is connected and uniform across devices and channels, and reflects really well on your brand as a whole.

Despite all the attention and the advancement in these technologies over the past few years, this area is still relatively nascent and the industry as a whole is still trying to come to terms with this technology, the different options that are available, and the associated implications. In our next post we will talk about these options and its implications.

We hope you enjoy reading these posts and we would love to hear about your experience as well. Based on what you are seeing with your brands, do you feel like the cross-device challenge is another overhyped buzzword, or are you seeing it have an impact on your bottom-line?

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