Adweek "Why Cross-Device Targeting Is a Marketing Must-Have This Holiday Season"

October 18, 2016


The stakes are high during the holidays. Shoppers are scrambling to get countless tasks accomplished before the New Year. Brands are competing for their attention and a bigger piece of their holiday budgets.

With fierce competition, how do you ensure that you're investing holiday marketing budgets in the most impactful, efficient way? How do you reach as many potential customers as possible? How can you make certain that your potential customer's experience is positive, and that you drive positive ROI too?

Before we answer, we should consider the 2016 holiday consumer and her habits. She uses, on average, three to four devices to research products, compare prices and make purchases. She may see a video ad for a holiday movie on her work computer on a Friday afternoon, research showtimes on her tablet at home that evening and finally buy tickets on her mobile phone as she's running out the door to the theater.

If you want to reach her, continue the conversation with her and finally drive her to buy a ticket, you need a connective thread. You need to understand who and where she is across all of her devices.

One of the most important tools in your holiday marketing toolbox is cross-device technology. It can help you maximize your chances of finding and messaging your potential customers; it can help you tell a cohesive, seamless story to them as they navigate across screens; and it can help you better attribute your customer's final purchase to your marketing efforts.

Develop your cross-device expertise and you can enter the holiday season confident that you'll be able to influence your target customers during the most important part of the year. Here's what you need to know.

Reaching consumers across their screens before the holiday rush

There are two kinds of cross-device models: deterministic and probabilistic.

Deterministic models identify users when they log in to services like Spotify, Facebook, Pandora or any other platform or publisher that asks people to sign in. If a given email account is accessed repeatedly on a laptop and a mobile phone, it's a safe bet that the same person owns both devices. Deterministic models are usually very accurate, but limited in scale.

Probabilistic models are more complex and much more scalable. They use billions of data points, including IP addresses, browsing patterns and device proximity, to run predictive tests that determine which devices belong to which person. So if someone is logging on to a laptop and a mobile device on the same IP addresses every day, and the browsing patterns look similar on both devices, it's likely safe to assume it's the same person.

Whichever method you use, cross-device targeting allows you do two important things:

First, it allows you to reach your target customer in more places. If the average customer is using three to four devices in their daily life, and you're only marketing to them on their PC, you're missing out on ample opportunities to catch their attention on their phones, tablets and other connected devices.

Second, cross-device targeting can help you build sequential narratives, so each piece of content matches the context the consumer is in. If you're targeting people on desktops during weekday mornings, there's a good chance they're at work—and probably not doing deep research into holiday gifts for their mother-in-law. This might be a good opportunity to introduce your brand and your message through video content. Next, in order to drive the conversation forward, you might choose to follow up with a special pricing offer in an audio ad on iPhones in the evening, when customers are commuting home or cooking dinner. You could follow that up later that night, when your prospective customer is relaxing at the end of the day, with a display ad driving to purchase.

Layering on location-based powers

The ability to deliver relevant messages is supercharged when you integrate anonymized location data into your cross-device campaigns. With this information, you can understand the full context of what the user is doing while you're trying to reach them, giving you the opportunity to create highly personalized messaging strategies. For instance, an electronics brand might run a holiday campaign that geo-targets mobile devices near a certain big box store. This way, when someone is using their phone to compare products while gift shopping, you can serve them a piece of content that seals the deal.

Tracking the whole journey

Finally, you can use cross-device tools to gain a better understanding of how effective a holistic, omnichannel marketing strategy really is. If someone buys a toy on their laptop after seeing an ad on their tablet, you can't track the conversion unless you know the two users are the same person. Cross-device removes the mystery. In some cases, by combining cross-device technology with offline attribution information from third-party data providers, you can even determine whether people who saw your ad on one of their devices go on to make a credit card purchase at a brick-and-mortar location.

However you choose to leverage cross-device technology this season—whether it's to extend reach on a retargeting strategy, to personalize your customer's experience across screens or to better attribute purchases to your marketing efforts—you're bound to have a leg up on the holiday madness.