What You Need to Know about Cross Device Identification

Rachel Curasi, Director of Media

Cross-device identification (XDID) continues to dramatically grow—both in its technical sophistication and as a point of priority among marketers.

As Gartner highlights, “few strategic imperatives are as starkly defined for advertisers, marketers, and publishers as the ability to more accurately track customers or prospects as they use different devices, and different combinations of apps and browsers to find and consume content and services.”

Companies know that consumers don’t interact with their brand in a linear fashion—their customer journeys are often muddied between channels rel="noopener noreferrer" and devices. In fact, the average consumer owns 4 connected devices and uses 3 of these devices to achieve a single objective, spending an average of 60 hours per week interacting with content.

This creates a huge need for marketers to accurately target customers as they crisscross between these devices. Many brands believe that XDID can provide the data insights to better capitalize on marketing opportunities, build personalized customer experiences, and decrease wasteful media spend. So where are marketers supposed to start?

Types of Cross-Device Identification

In its simplest form, cross-device identification enables marketers to target users across all of their devices and channels. It’s the ability for marketers to match a smartphone, laptop, tablet, Fitbit, Smart TV, or any connected device to a specific individual as well as how that individual uses these devices to navigate between websites, social channels, and public portals.

While there are many different ways brands can accomplish this, XDID really boils down to two methods: deterministic and probabilistic.

Deterministic Cross-Device Identification uses known user data to match a user to a series of devices (think email addresses, social media logins, etc.).

Industries like Financial Services, Utilities, Energy, rel="noopener noreferrer" CPG, or others that have customers profiles or use social-federated logins to access content or information can easily take advantage of this type of cross-device data.

For example, Amazon may have a customer make a purchase via the app on their phone, their iPad, the browser on their desktop, or even have an Amazon Firestick connected to their TV. This allows Amazon to have a full understanding of that customer’s behavior across devices for future media targeting and product recommendations.

While this rel="noopener noreferrer" method is accurate and highly scalable, the drawback for marketers is that customer data is not portable—that is, businesses are unable to take that data outside of the platform to use internally across other rel="noopener noreferrer" marketing platforms. Major vendors who utilize this method include Facebook and Google.

When personal rel="noopener noreferrer" identifiable information is unknown, Probabilistic Cross-Device Identification involves a variety of anonymized data signals like IP address, browser type, location, and choice of operating system to make informed judgments on who a customer is and what devices they use.

While probabilistic XDID reaches more consumers and offers more control and flexibility for businesses, this method can be less accurate than deterministic XDID as it relies on probable inferences about an individual. Depending on the data available, companies will receive various levels of confidence.

The Future of XDID

For most rel="noopener noreferrer" cross-device data vendors, cross-device identification is usually accomplished through a combination of deterministic and probabilistic tactics to achieve both accuracy and reach. However, while brands should absolutely utilize ad targeting to connect customers with the most appropriate content, they also need to be cautious of XDID vendors who overpromise on their cross-device solutions.

While cross-device sophistication has rel="noopener noreferrer" advanced in recent years, its technology is still evolving and has not necessarily caught up with industry expectations. From ad blockers rel="noopener noreferrer" to fragmentation to lack of accurate data, there are many challenges that still exist with XDID and experts believe that universal adoption is still two to five years away.

While digitally mature organizations may rely on cross-device ID as a fundamental part of their current marketing strategy, there are a few steps that other companies can take to prepare themselves rel="noopener noreferrer" for the future:

Develop A Personalization Strategy
A 2016 survey suggested that 56% of senior marketers are in the process of implementing rel="noopener noreferrer" a personalization strategy. By having a blueprint in place for how to tailor content to reach target customers, companies can set themselves up for success for cross-device campaign execution. Melissa Parrish, Executive Director of AdExchanger Research, believes “by exploring cross-device strategies today, marketers will be prepared for more personalized and effective audience engagement in the long run.”

Create a Customer Journey Map
Use historic data, contextual analytics, and audience personas to collect information on your customer’s behavioral habits. By taking an exhaustive approach in learning about your customers’ primary channels, digital tendencies, and device preferences, companies can better predict their marketing outcomes and inform a cross-device rel="noopener noreferrer" personalization strategy.

Invest in Mobile
The number of U.S. smartphones is estimated to reach 222.9M this year. With mobile becoming the dominant screen as it relates to customer engagement, companies need to invest resources into improving every aspect of mobile marketing—from platforms to strategy to creative to campaign execution.

Cross-Device Identification continues to be one of the most discussed trends in marketing because of the many benefits that it offers, including data insights, targeting capabilities, and messaging personalization—all in hopes of increasing results and decreasing wasted spend for marketing campaigns.

Although there is still some much-needed growth for this tactic to meet the expectations of the industry, the future is very bright. Marketers feel rather confident XDID technology will continue to evolve and will be a household name in the next few years. While it may not be an immediate priority for all companies, it is in every organization’s best interest to have the right strategy and processes in place to ensure they are prepared for when that time comes. As marketing technology continues to become more sophisticated, it will only be a matter of time where all campaigns will be focused around a personalized audience engagement.


About the author: Rachel Curasi

As the Director Media Planner/Buyer, Rachel oversees the development, management, and optimization of media strategies and campaigns for R2i’s largest accounts across multiple industries such as tech, healthcare, and finance. She loves keeping up with industry trends as well finding new and innovative ideas for media campaigns. Her free time is spent going on hikes with her cockapoo, watching everything on Bravo, and practicing Yoga.

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