what is cross device targeting

Consumers engage online across an increasing choice of platforms and devices.

These include smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, game consoles, Smart TVs, and other connected gadgets. A typical user can check Facebook posts on his smartphone, do online research on his work desktop, watch YouTube videos on a tablet, shop online on his home laptop, and track his workout on his Fitbit.

Cross device targeting is the practice of identifying and delivering advertising to consumers across multiple platforms and devices. According to Statista, there will be 6.58 network connected devices per person globally by 2020. Advertising to a person across every device they own is a challenge faced by advertisers.

Cross device targeting can be achieved by one of two methods: Deterministic vs. Probabilistic.

Deterministic Cross Device Tracking

Deterministic cross device tracking is when an identifier, such as an email or login credential, is used to determine that two or more devices are being used by the same person. This method for cross device targeting is more accurate because the identifier used is unique to an individual.

However, deterministic targeting is limited in reach. A user needs to enter their information on multiple devices to tie those devices to the same user. Only companies with sizable logged in emails or user credentials, such as the “walled gardens” of Facebook and Google, can effectively use deterministic cross device targeting on their own.

Probabilistic Cross Device Tracking

Probabilistic cross device tracking is done when you do not have the data to deterministically link individual users to specific devices. For example, non-personal information, such as IP addresses, operating system, device make and model, and cookie data from website visits, may be used to infer that multiple devices are probably linked to a single user.

Probabilistic targeting works by creating a model based on devices which are found to regularly spend time in the same location. This model is then further trained and validated using known shared devices. However, there are shortfalls to the probabilistic approach. According to the IAB, mobile cookie tracking has limitations across devices (iOS  vs. Android) and environments (mobile web browsers vs. mobile apps). In addition, an IP address may be inaccurate if multiple people reside in the same household.

Benefits of Cross Device Targeting

The goal of cross device targeting is to provide a seamless customer experience to deliver truly personalized messaging no matter what device a consumer is using. The desire is to link targeted mobile users to unique audience segmentations. Messaging can then be customized to consumer profiles based on a user’s mobile activity and insights on their demographics, consumer interests, shopping behaviors, and purchasing patterns.

The benefits of cross device targeting are improved ad targeting, personalization, and measurement capabilities. The need for customer insights collected across devices should be balanced with the protection of consumer privacy. As progress continues, marketers need to stay abreast of the latest technological developments.


For further reading:

The Benefits and Perils of Cross-Device Tracking

What Is Cross-Device Identification and How Can Marketers Use It?

Terri Mock
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