Tracking Consumer Behavior – The Importance of Cross-Device Attribution

As companies continue to wade into the open waters of digital marketing, the ability to account for users’ behavior across devices is crucial. Advertisers need to understand how to achieve cross-device attribution, analyze data and create appropriate advertising plans.

According to ExchangeWire, half of e-commerce transactions worldwide involve a cross-device purchase journey. We can bring that to life even more with this stat: the typical digital consumer owns more than 3 1/2 connected devices.

*Source: GlobalWebIndex, 2015

This shift in purchase journeys underscores the need for proper attribution of the digital consumer’s path – from awareness of the product, purchase consideration, loyalty to the product and advocacy of the product. Of the U.S. consumers using multiple devices in the path to purchase, 46 percent use desktop, 44 percent convert via smartphone and 43 percent via tablet, according to ExchangeWire.

In 2017, eMarketer predicts Facebook and Google will lead online-to-offline attribution. Currently, Facebook uses its own apps to track foot traffic while also partnering with Square, the magnet stripe reader for swiping credit cards, to get offline purchase information. The partnership between Facebook and Square allows the social media company to integrate data with point-of-sale systems. Google’s offline information attribution is not instantaneous, but uses the same avenues, according to eMarketer. This is seen in customer relationship management (CRM) systems and commerce application programming interfaces (APIs) across the board.

Monarch Airlines has had success with a partnership between Flashtalking and Tapad. The partnership allows Flashtalking to deliver new insights to marketers and provides a unified view of the customer journey. The use of cross-device marketing technology solutions has led to a 35 percent increase in display ROI for Monarch, according to ExchangeWire.

But this type of success is not ubiquitous. A 2016 survey by Econsultancy investigated the gaps between companies’ digital priorities and their capabilities. Nearly 75 percent of companies across North America stated “matching customers across multiple devices” as a top digital priority. However, only 14 percent of marketers in the survey said their company had the capabilities to handle such matching.

Digging deeper, Econsultancy discovered that although this priority is high on the list, only about 39 percent of marketers said they were able to understand their customers’ cross-device behaviors. This was lower than any other capability. The Interactive Advertising Bureau says U.S. marketers plan to devote more time and organizational resources to cross-device measurement and attribution in 2017.

This data also points out that cross-channel strategies versus advertising on multiple channels will make or break your marketing strategy. Brandon Wishnow, Executive Vice President of Measurement and Activation at Ovative/group, said, “there are probably more companies that are targeting media across devices than there are companies that actually understand the cross-device behavior of their customer base.”

In a recent eMarketer webinar, digital marketing contributor Lauren Fisher explained that a common mistake that companies make is marketing by devices rather than by the person who owns the device. Rather, consumers should be viewed singularly across all devices to extract the data needed for cross-device targeting.

The key to cross-device targeting is to understand the consumer, their research and shopping habits and to serve them appropriate messaging at the right time in the buying cycle. So with that in mind, here’s a list of tips to help advertisers master cross-device attribution courtesy of eMarketer.

Expanded metrics

Advertisers need to continue to develop a better understanding of the entire consumer purchase journey – this means being able to track users across devices and collect actionable data about their behavior. Forty percent of consumers expect brands to understand their offline purchasing data and advertisers need to create appropriate messaging based on that information.

TV ad buying

Advertisers should dedicate 35 percent of ad budgets to cross-screen TV ad buying. Connected TVs offer the most precise audience matching, but matching audiences to linear TV is the ultimate goal.

Creative capabilities

It’s important for brands to build a congruent and sequential narrative tailored to users, not the device they are using. Smartphone messaging must align with laptop messaging to keep the consumer moving towards a purchase; otherwise, you are constantly starting over with the same consumer.


Advertisers need to make sure campaign data and channel attribution are as accurate as possible. Here are a few strategies companies can employ to improve accuracy:

  • Include identity graphs in measurement providers
  • Move away from cookie-based solutions
  • Adopt cross-device attribution services
  • Converge traditional and digital attribution models
Data quality

As we covered above, data quality is crucial for brands trying to reach consumers across multiple devices. Here are four things marketers should consider while assessing quality issues:

  • How segments are created
  • The ability to use first-party data
  • How to onboard match rates and methodologies
  • The quantity of the data versus the quality of data