How To Read Analytics Clues for a Cross-Device Marketing Strategy

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Marketing at its core is about imagining how to connect to a customer, but if you are like many marketing managers, knowing where to connect to customers remains a mystery in the digital era.

Attribution is still at the heart of marketers’ worries, thanks to cross-device usage among customers.  Mobile devices and networked IoT devices (together with widespread WiFi access) are supplanting desktops as primary portals to the digital world.  Consumers can now access information anywhere and anytime, leaving managers struggling to establish one coherent message across multiple devices. 

The cross-device trend was first experienced—and feared—among retailers during the 2013 holiday season.”Webrooming,” the customer behavior of researching products and services online, then buying in store, became prominent as customers learned to extend the capabilities of their smartphones to their daily shopping routines. The initial result was concern about a hyper-competitive pricing war among retailers.  But retailers soon realized that “webrooming” was to their benefit.  A 2013 UPI post cited a Harris poll in which 46 percent of respondents said they “showroom” (research in store, then buy online) when they shop, while 69 percent say they “webroom.”   This means customers who actually made an in store purchase more than likely researched on the retailer’s site instead of competitor sites.

Analyzing cross device behavior accurately remains a challenge, as eMarketers noted a March 2016 Econsultancy survey in which nearly three-fourths of polled respondents felt matching customers across multiple devices was a strategic priority yet “only 14% of marketers in the same survey said their company had the capability to handle such matching.”

As a primer for discovering clues for cross device attribution, here are a few tips you can use with the digital measurement capabilities available now.

1. Set reporting to reflect known facts about the environment being measured

Some data filters in an analytics report can be set to account for initial assumptions about a measurement environment.  For example, website traffic can be filtered by the IP address associated with a given store location. Thus analytic reports can display site behavior metrics from customers who access a retail site while in store. Businesses with employees and resources in different locations can replicate this strategy.   Ultimately you should take advantage of what you know about the digital points at which customers engage with your business.

2. Consider ads features that bridge impressions across devices

Paid search platforms such as Bing and AdWords were originally created for a world where desktop search was paramount.  Since that world has been expanded to mobile and IoT devices, both platforms have expanded offerings to help encourage cross device usage.   For example, both platforms offer device selection for re-marketing ads and paid search ads to remind customers to return to a website and complete a purchase.  There are also call extensions—ads meant to complement a mobile phone capability to place a sales call faster. You can read about it in my earlier article.

AdWords offers cross-device reporting that can appear in the AdWords manager UI.  The reports display an overview of the cross-device activity in an AdWords account, with assisting device and device paths reports, compare last click and click-assists. Ultimately you can learn where ads assisted the conversion path—the steps customers take towards a sale, a download, or other desired outcome. 

3. Set cross-device management in the analytics solution  

Analytic platforms offer a User IDs feature, a modification to the analytics tag, designed to allow cross-device visits to be an identifiable segment in the analytics reports. Every analytics platform has a version of this—Google Analytics and Piwik both offer User IDs, while Adobe Analytics offers a VisitorID.  The purpose behind User IDs is to identify individual activity while avoiding personally identifiable information from appearing in the reports or within the overall analytics stack where analytics data is exported.

Implementing User IDs requires a bit of planning with reporting and tag structure, so you should coordinate with developers on how the feature impacts analytics scripts, tags, and reports.

4. Set a mobile site to take advantage of mobile search activity

Mobile sites let customers act immediately—to order, call, or seek an download. So plan a mobile site focused on a simple purpose. For example, an option for in-store shipping delivery can be a simple means to connect to customers. Moreover, attracting steady mobile traffic can lead to a basic audience that can support an app launch.  

5. Leverage social media to reach mobile users

In an earlier DMNTech post, I wrote about the value of social commerce.   That value derives from the convenience people experience when accessing their favorite social media through a mobile device or smartphone.  According to Shareholic’s Social Media Traffic report , Facebook has the largest mobile audience among the social media platforms.  Another key indicator is the rise of video.  Google has noted that half of YouTube’s traffic arrives via a mobile device. Marketers can use these initial traffic stats, along with demographic descriptions, to learn how to tailor their content to a given social media platform.

Marketers can also adjust when media content should be deployed by using the Google Customer Journey tool, and extend their social media impressions through social media ads (also covered in a previous DMNTech piece).  

The tendency for consumers to rely on multiple devices will not abate anytime soon. Regardless of whether you are a B2B or B2C business, the right planning and analytics can help retail your marketing team understand where the customer engagement occurs that generates the conversion activity that ultimately drives the bottom line.  

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