Cross-Device Learning Center

Cross-Device Retargeting

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LC-Cross-Device-RetargetingYour customers are everywhere at once. If they’re not on their laptop computer, they’re scrolling through their newsfeed on their smartphone. If they’re not shopping online via a tablet, they’re doing research on their office PC. Google reports that 90% of consumers accomplish online activities, such as researching and shopping online, using multiple devices. Nielsen estimates that Americans own an average of four digital devices. This reality is forcing online retailers and consumer brands to find ways to effectively reach customers across all their devices.

One of the most effective advertising mechanisms in wide use today is retargeting (also called remarketing). Retargeting delivers relevant and focused ads to consumers when it matters most: soon after purchase intent is revealed. The mass movement to shopping across devices, however, renders the traditional, cookie-based retargeting approach essentially obsolete. This is because it only functions on a single device, making it much too easy to completely miss the opportunity for a successful retargeting campaign if the customer happens to be using a different device during the critical purchase-decision period.

Fortunately, cross-device retargeting enables the delivery of timely, relevant and engaging remarketing ads to consumers across multiple platforms, designed with the sole purpose of getting a customer to come back to a brand’s site and make a purchase.

The Benefits of Cross-Device Retargeting

For many advertisers, trying to capture and hold a customer’s attention can be significantly challenging, especially given the fact that customers are using so many devices to browse and shop online. Customers may decide against making a purchase decision at that specific point in time, or they might abandon the checkout process for an unknown reason. Over 67% of online shopping carts are abandoned, adding up to massive losses for retailers. When customers are asked why they abandoned their shopping carts, frequent answers included that they were just browsing, or that they wanted more time to make up their minds, or even that they simply became distracted with other matters before completing check-out.

In all these situations, retargeting is a proven way to get the customer back and make/complete a purchase. However, given the fact that customers are using multiple devices to research, shop and purchase, it is critical that retargeting efforts find the customer regardless of which device she is using at the moment. It has been observed that the more a customer is exposed to a product she previously considered purchasing, the more likely it is that she will eventually convince herself to buy that product. By exposing the customer to that product across all of her screens, it becomes much more likely that she will see your ads and re-visit your site when it matters most.

Cross-Device Retargeting in Action

Here’s an example of what cross-device retargeting might look like for an online retailer:

  • A consumer uses his tablet to read about a new type of surf board in a sponsored article and clicks through to a sporting retailer’s website.
  • The consumer browses through the surf board category of products on the site, but does not purchase anything.
  • Later that same day, the retailer shows a relevant product category ad – perhaps with an enticing discount – to the same consumer, as he is reading the news on his smartphone.
  • The customer is intrigued by the ad and clicks through to the site.
  • The customer decides to purchase the product and checks out via his smartphone.

In the above example, a customer was provided a timely and relevant ad about a product in which he had very recently shown interest. Although he wasn’t ready to buy the product while he was browsing on his desktop, the retargeting ad on his smartphone – a different device – ultimately led to the purchase.

In this way, cross-device retargeting makes it possible for online retailers to continue to drive conversions, regardless of where the consumer’s various interactions take place. Online retailers and other companies can increase engagement with their brands—and improve conversion rates—by providing a consistent brand experience for the consumer across all the consumer’s devices.

Why Timing is Key

When a consumer has been browsing for a particular item or product category, it is often a clear indication of purchase intent: it is likely that the customer will purchase the product in the next few hours or days. Thus, it is critical to get the retargeting ads in front of the user quickly – regardless of which device the user happens to be using during this limited time frame. Retargeting campaigns that only work on the same device where the purchase intent was observed can miss out on the entire opportunity.

Of course, the buying cycle for certain product categories may be longer than just hours or days, and it may even involve communication with the company before making the purchase decision. Even in these situations, retargeting can be highly effective, if done properly. For example, the retargeting campaigns should be customized to account for the timing factor (perhaps showing fewer ads soon after the interaction, with a more aggressive frequency a few days later) and even based on the content of the customer’s communications with the company (for example, referencing the type of communication it was or the type of answer that was sent in response). Even in this more advanced form of retargeting, it is critical to reach the user on whichever device he or she happens to be using at the critical juncture at which the retargeting can be most effective.

Cross-Device Frequency Capping for Retargeting Campaigns

No brand wants their advertising efforts to annoy their potential (and existing) customers. An important way advertisers attempt to avoid doing so is by limiting the number of times that a given consumer will see its retargeting ads in a given day. This is known as frequency capping.

Unfortunately, most frequency capping systems limit the number of times an ad will be shown on a particular device, without regard for the fact that the same consumer might be seeing the ads on 2-4 different devices, thus exceeding the intended cap by 2-4X, and entering deeply into the “remarketing danger zone.”

” Cross-device frequency capping solves this problem by ensuring that a given consumer does not receive more than the intended number of ads per time period, regardless of how many different devices he or she is using. Read more about this in the accompanying article, Cross-Device Frequency Capping.

Accurately Measuring the Effectiveness of Retargeting Campaigns

Advertisers know that it is critical to accurately measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, and this applies, of course, to remarketing campaigns as well. However, when the advertiser’s systems are blind to people, and can only track activities performed by devices, it becomes impossible to accurately measure campaign performance. By tracking the entire purchase process – including ad clicks, product browsing, retargeting campaign clicks and check-outs – across all of an individual consumer’s devices, it becomes possible to get a clear picture of the complete customer journey that led to the purchase.

Without this ability, retargeting campaigns tend to get too much credit for final purchases because they are the last – and therefore only – stage observed right before the purchase (ignoring other steps in the process, such as the original ad mentioned in the surf board case above).

By embedding cross-device conversion attribution into their advertising and retargeting systems, advertisers acquire the holistic analytics solution they need to correctly measure the performance of all their marketing investments.


Last updated: 17 January 2016
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