Cross-Device Measurement: Believe the Hype

With the rise of multi-device usage, it is not always the case that the device a consumer started their conversion path on (for example, searched for a product on their desktop computer) is the same device the final conversion occurred on (for example, purchased the product on their smartphone).

Facebook recently commissioned a study that showed multiple devices are now an integral part of our lives and switching between them is becoming standard practice. In fact, more than 60 percent of online adults in the U.S. use at least two devices everyday and almost one-quarter use three devices. More than 40 percent of online adults sometimes start an activity on one device only to finish it on another.

Marketers want the flexibility to use multiple marketing channels – from search to social to advertising publishers – to reach the right audience at the desired point in the purchased funnel. Of course marketers also want to measure these cross-channel and cross-device campaigns, but how?

What’s the Problem?

Measuring consumer behavior on desktops is relatively easy because of “cookies,” pixels, and URL parameters. These methodologies are essentially irrelevant on the mobile Web, as they don’t work for apps and that’s where consumers spend almost 80 percent of their time when on a mobile device. With the ever-growing number of devices, platforms, operating systems, and advertising networks, this problem seems to be unsolvable.

When talking with attendees at mobile marketing conferences and events, I’ve frequently heard that the inability to identify consumers across devices is what’s preventing brands from spending heavily on mobile advertising even though they do believe that is where their customer is spending most of their time consuming media.

Why Cross-Device Measurement Matters

If there is a method to prove that an ad seen on smartphone resulted in a later purchase on a desktop Web search, or vice versa, then brands would likely be more willing to spend money and resources on mobile because they would understand the impact that channel has on the purchase decision. Identifying consumers on desktop versus tablets versus smartphones and even wearables can also help marketers understand consumer behavior on each of these types of devices. Brands would be able to learn how consumers use different types of devices to research or purchase. The more confidence a marketer has in the return of their ad spend, the easier it is to justify allocating more resources to that investment.

Reporting for a Cross-Device World

However, there is a simple solution to measure cross-device campaigns. Advertisers can work with third-party attribution analytics technology and implement deterministic device pairing. This technology works by linking the device on which an ad is originally viewed, with the resulting usage of the correlated mobile app on any subsequent device. Marketers are able to connect user activity through a specific user identifier that is common across each device. Since the same identifier is used when measuring the click of the ad, events by the user on another device can be attributed back to the ad click. For example, here are four unique user identifiers that can be used for deterministic cross-device attribution:

  • User Email: The email of the user defined by the marketer.
  • User ID: The ID of the user defined by the marketer.
  • Username: The username of the user defined by the marketer.
  • Social Login ID: The ID associated with their social account.


Normally, third parties use a unique email address for cross-device attribution because third parties can’t interact with or target the user through the marketer’s user ID or username for the user (as they don’t have access to that information). The user ID and username are used solely by the marketer to measure internal campaigns, since they can interact or target the user with these two user identifiers.


Through device pairing, cross-device attribution can be implemented to measure new user acquisition campaigns and also re-engagement campaigns for existing users.

Believe in the Hype

The basic task of marketing is to deliver better results when achieving a particular goal, whether it be better SEO, brand awareness, conversions, or in-store purchases. When targeting consumers across devices, it is important to evaluate whether the right mix of channels and devices are being applied to the right marketing goals. As multi-device consumption becomes the standard for consumers, marketers need to clearly understand mobile measurement and the analytics available to stay ahead of the curve.

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