Pulling Insights Out of a Cross-Device World

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Digital identity isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, with different limits for every format.
Digital identity isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, with different limits for every format. Credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Consumers spend more than five hours a day staring at one digital screen or another.

For marketers, this shift in behavior suddenly makes focus groups and other attempts to plumb the consumer psyche obsolete. But there's a hitch. Because consumers are dividing their digital media time among several devices, there's a schism between the way we measure desktop and mobile interactions. Providing a consistent view of one consumer across his or her various devices is essential from a marketer's point of view, but very tricky from technologist's point of view.

It is now possible to solve that riddle, but marketers need to take ownership of the cross-device data that they glean, often with the aid of third-party digital identity solutions. There's no silver bullet for discerning consumers' identities. Instead, marketers need to synthesize a raft of solutions.

The device explosion

The vast amount of time spent online, multiplied across millions of consumers, results in a huge amount of data. However, a portion will always be missing. That's because some digital media companies don't share their data, reasoning that it's more valuable for them to keep it proprietary. Regulations will always limit the sharing of data to one degree or another; witness the Federal Communications Commission's decision Thursday to require internet service providers to get consumers' consent before using data like browsing history. For a marketer, this means their view of a consumer will never be 100%.

However, if brands set up their own media and draw consumers to it, they will be able to extract enough meaningful data to create a user persona with which they can craft a better brand message.

Overall, digital identity isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. To discern who is engaging with the brand, marketers need to employ a combination tactics: cookies, statistical IDs, mobile identifiers and a cross-device graph.

No silver bullet

The reality is, there's no single method of compiling cross-device data. Instead, you have to synthesize various approaches. One poll doesn't tell you much about the presidential election, but an average of 100 polls will. The same is true for cross device: You need to compile the results of various approaches to get an accurate read.

There are limitations for every existing format. Cookies work great on desktop (except when cookie blockers are employed), but don't work for apps, where mobile users spend most of their time. Statistical IDs cull data from a browser or app that isn't dependent on cookies, but don't go across devices. Mobile identifiers like IDFA and Google AID are prevalent identifiers for mobile app, but aren't available across the mobile web. A cross-device graph helps fill in the blanks by using probabilistic or deterministic grouping of multiple devices, but isn't a holistic solution on its own. Finally, linking CRM/email data can help establish this user's prior engagement with the brand, but such data alone only gives you part of the picture.

Marketers that are able to use such data invariably discover that every consumer approaches a brand a bit differently. What's universal is that effective branding means making a connection with a consumer, not merely lobbing creative (no matter how great) in their direction. Evoking positive emotions about the brand is of primary importance here. In a cross-device world, that connection can be compromised by a flawed execution. If you are bombarded with creative across your devices, for instance, it demonstrates that the marketer isn't mindful of frequency capping or sequencing, and will lose out to a rival that is.

Cross-device data

Data is essential for creating digital campaigns. But on a larger level, it's also crucial for marketers who want to gain a longer-term understanding of their customers.

For instance, if a brand decides not to run a particular campaign in Q3 should they lose the data that they captured in Q1 and Q2? Of course not, yet this often happens when you have media agencies and programmatic buying platforms acting on behalf of the brand. Actually, that data should be considered part of a brand's first-party data, along with CRM data.

This multi-device world is still so new that marketers are catching up and putting new options and learning into practice. Digital devices may offer a mirror into consumers' minds, but for too many marketers, this complex landscape seem more like a house of mirrors. Strategic coordination of the above data tactics derives a strong solution and ultimately arrives a marketer at a greater level of command over one's own data-driven marketing.

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