Crossing the great device divide

Jon Lord

Jon Lord, Commercial Director at Criteo

At one time, shoppers’ online behaviour consisted mostly of clicks on a website displayed on a PC. With most people only able to access the internet via a home or workplace computer and smartphones in their infancy (remember WAP, phone charms and ‘snap on’ phone cases?), marketers could easily target the right people at the right time with the right content. However, internet browsing habits rapidly evolved and began to involve more and more devices. This made effective marketing a significantly bigger and more complicated task.

Today, the average consumer owns several connected devices – from smartphones and tablets to wearable gadgets. According to the Global Web Index, the typical digital consumer now owns between three and four (3.64 to be precise!) different connected devices, each with access to a wealth of different websites and apps, each with their own profiles.

It’s more than just browsing though. Mobile has become an integral part of the shopping experience with consumers researching, browsing and buying on a plethora of different devices and platforms – from their smartphone’s web browser, retail apps to social networks.

In fact, it’s getting more and more unusual for a shopper’s decision-making process to involve just one device. While the trusty PC remains a player, the volume of mobile devices out there today has transformed online shopping in to a team game with nearly 40% of all global ecommerce transactions involving multiple devices. The era of cross-device shopping is well and truly upon us.

But while transactions may involve more devices than ever before, consumers view a brand’s websites, apps, even retail stores and TV ads as part of the same experience. Marketers must recognise this and ensure that whether their customers are browsing on a tablet or buying on a smartphone, their experience is a seamless one. An effective cross-device strategy is essential to meeting these customer expectations – and to optimising ROI on advertising! It’s up to brands to engage the multiscreen user in a consistent and connected way, whatever device or platform they’re on.

The need to provide this consistent experience from device to device cannot be understated. In fact, some shoppers say they will stop interacting with a brand if the experience varies too much. A recent study by Adobe found that 66% of device owners get frustrated when content is not synchronised across devices.

Clearly, a cross-device strategy is essential and done well, it is incredibly powerful tool. But marketers are finding that cross-device marketing is complicated. Most advertising systems are unable to link the multiple profiles generated by a person’s online persona due to the number of different devices and apps involved. The few that can identify an individual in real-time across devices have limited reach, or work within a closed ecosystem that represents a small portion of the full shopping journey. This ultimately restricts a marketer’s ability to optimise online campaigns, creating a fragmented, or siloed consumer experience.

The key to cross-device success lies in a great people-centric strategy and leveraging technology at scale. By activating customer and device data to connect with people, not devices, brands have the opportunity to engage consumers with relevant and impactful content.

Whether that’s is through deterministic persistent identifier graphs or probabilistic machine learning models or most likely a combination of the two routes, advertisers can curate the best customer experiences regardless of the device or browser

The need for an effective cross-device strategy will continue to grow as it becomes more and more unusual for a shopper to browse and buy on just one device. Customers now expect brands to know them as individuals and simply don’t care about the technical difficulties in the background. Successful advertisers will join up the customer experience across platforms in a relevant and non-intrusive manner, generating more insight than ever before into how consumers are engaging with their brand at every level.

It’s now up to technology providers to offer insight into this journey and show brands how they can capitalise on this insight. This is an exciting proposition for consumers too, who should be looking forward to personalised, relevant content, no matter what, or how many devices they’re using.

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