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What Marketers Need to Know about Cross-Device Tracking

By BKV in Media Strategy on September 27th, 2016

Establishing user identity gets tougher when people engage with multiple devices in different geographic locations with new IP addresses.

Designed to engage target users as they interact with multiple electronic platforms (including desktop, laptop and mobile), cross-device marketing has become a crucial strategy for marketers. The ability to track results from cross-device campaigns and present creative messages on the right devices and at the right times is critical.

The following is a look at key challenges of cross-device tracking and tips for developing effective campaigns.

Establishing User Identity

The first major hurdle to overcome in cross-device tracking is establishing user identity on multiple platforms. You can only plan effective campaigns if you know which devices a single user owns or operates.

The two common strategies for identifying users on multiple devices are deterministic and probabilistic. Deterministic involves mapping a particular online user to their devices based on a single email address used to log in to each. Log-ins on social accounts or apps like Facebook or Twitter are other potential identifiers. Probabilistic relies on IP addresses and other consistent data signals to make a logical assumption that the same person is using particular devices.

Building a Diverse Creative Strategy

Messages that work well on television or desktop don't necessarily create the same impact on a mobile platform. Therefore, you need to build a creative message strategy that emphasizes content effectiveness specific to each device. You can't just create one message and present it everywhere.

A simple difference between a mobile phone and a TV screen or desktop is the smaller screen size. Take this into account when preparing content and imagery. To fine-tune ads for each platform, conduct A/B testing. Target users with multiple ad types and evaluate which ones result in the highest response rates. Emphasize top performing messages and designs for each device.

Tracking Synergy

In addition to measuring the response rates on each device, track the synergy created by ad impressions on multiple platforms. For instance, you might find a user exposed to messages on desktop and mobile has a higher response rate than someone who sees an ad on only one of these devices.

Synergy normally results from ad repetition as well as the differentiation of messages. When you execute different types of ads for each platform, users may not become as desensitized to the message. Adjust and measure your performance with variable content.

Tracking Audience Message Paths

Track the message path that ultimately drives a response from a user. For instance, getting a response from someone the first time he experiences a desktop ad is different from getting a response after someone sees a TV commercial, a desktop ad and then a mobile ad.

Device graphs are a visual tool used to map out the sequence of messages users experience on devices prior to a response. Tracking this type of performance is useful for optimizing the timing of your delivery.

It takes time to collaborate and formulate effective plans for tracking cross-device performance in multiple ways.


Before you can even worry about tracking responses in a cross-device strategy, have a plan to identify users. You need to connect people to the devices they operate. Then, build a plan that delivers and tracks results from diverse content types, platform synergy and message flow.

Working with a top digital marketing agency experienced with cross-device campaigns is a huge advantage. See some of our work and let's get started on your campaign today!

  • Another great post, guys. I’m going to use elements of this in a speech I’m giving in a few weeks. I’ll let them know where I got the information! Thanks.