Cross-Device Learning Center

Cross-Device Advertising

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Cross-Device AdvertisingMobile app usage already accounts for more than 50% of all time spent on digital media (comScore), Americans own an average of four digital devices and engage with media content across screens for more than 60 hours per week (Nielsen), and 90% of consumers accomplish online activities (such as researching and shopping online) using multiple devices (Google).

Many consumers research purchase decisions on certain devices (such as their smartphones), but only purchase their selected products using larger-screen devices (such as their tablet or home computer). For example, research indicates that conversion rates are nearly three times greater on traditional PCs than they are on smartphones (Monetate). On the other hand, impulse buying is ideally suited to mobile, due to the always-available nature of mobile devices, and in-app ads are important due to the amount of time consumers spend in apps.

Given this reality, advertisers need to reach their target audiences regardless of which device they are using at any point in time. The days of advertising only on the Web and relying on browser cookies are over: the challenge today is reaching consumers across all of the devices they are using to access the Internet.

The Importance of Linking Consumers Across their Devices

Modern digital advertisers usually try to increase the effectiveness and ROI of their online advertising efforts by focusing their advertising on specific consumer segments. Whether based on demographic parameters, category-interest signals or intention-to-purchase signals (or a combination of these), targeted advertising is far more effective for advertisers, while being more relevant (and thus less annoying) for consumers.

The challenge is that targeted audiences are usually based on data that is available from a single device. For example, a consumer may be actively researching which digital TV to buy, using his or her smartphone while commuting to and from work. These signals may be used by TV manufacturers and e-retailers to target that smartphone with relevant ads and special deals. However, when the same consumer is using his or her home computer in the evening – where the purchase will likely be made – these ads may not be reaching this consumer at this critical time because the audience segment only contains the buyer’s phone.

However, if the advertiser had a way of identifying the linkage between all of a consumer’s devices (phone, tablet, home computer, work computer, etc.), then the audience segments could be expanded to include all the relevant devices. The business value of doing so is clear.

Another example of the importance of linking a consumer’s various devices is the fact that mobile apps, and even mobile Web browsers, don’t provide nearly as much data to marketers as PC websites do. By adding the data known about a consumer from her PC Web activity to her mobile device profile, advertisers can target the same consumer via her mobile devices much more effectively. In the other direction, geographical location data generated by consumers’ mobile devices can be used to better target them via their home PCs.

A third example is known as sequential messaging. Advertising campaigns consisting of a series of ads telling a story or building up to an anticipated conclusion are proven to generate higher returns (Mobile Marketer). With the ability to tell the story to a particular consumer throughout the day, across all the devices being used, advertisers can reap the benefits of sequential messaging in today’s era of multi-device usage.

Additional applications of this approach include cross-device retargeting – instead of limiting retargeting ads to the same platform in which the consumer initially visited a website, retargeting ads can now be shown to the consumer on the additional devices he or she is using – and cross-device frequency capping – the benefits of limiting ad spend and preventing consumer irritation by running the same ad too many times apply across all a user’s devices. These benefits are simply not realized when treating each device as if it were a separate person.

All types of cross-device advertising campaigns are a win-win proposition for advertisers and consumers: advertisers are able to extend their reach, realize higher return on ad spend via better targeting, and improve their analytics capabilities with more accurate conversion attribution, while consumers enjoy more relevant messaging along with seamless and engaging experiences across their various devices.

How Cross-Device Advertising Works

The solution to the cross-device advertising challenge lies in identifying which different devices are being used by each individual consumer. In other words, advertisers need to be focusing on people, not devices. When done right, advertisers can deliver seamless and integrated communications and experiences to a particular consumer as he or she fluidly moves across a number of different screens. This is accomplished by identifying the multiple devices used by an individual consumer, using either deterministic data or a probabilistic device map.

A probabilistic device map identifies which devices are currently in use by an individual person – without requiring login data, or any other personally-identifiable information about the person. Also known as a device graph, these data sets provide advertisers and AdTech vendors with the ability to identify which particular devices, among billions of tracked devices, are being used by which individual consumers. Probabilistic device maps offer the greatest available consumer recall, with very high precision, without the privacy risks inherent with deterministic matching datasets.

This cross-device user identification data is available for straightforward implementation within any programmatic advertising system, quickly allowing advertisers to realize all the benefits of cross-device advertising in today’s multi-screen era.

Learn More

A probabilistic device map can also provide numerous valuable benefits beyond advertising – click a link to learn more:


Last updated: 14 February 2016