Cross-device tracking is a marketing technique that allows businesses to track their customers' online activity across multiple devices. Tracking can incorporate various methods, such as cookies, IP addresses, and browser fingerprints. Regardless of how users are tracked, cross-device tracking is essential to a broader marketing strategy, especially in ecommerce.

The importance of cross-device tracking

Cross-device tracking is essential for ecommerce businesses because it allows them to understand their customers' behavior more deeply. The information gleaned through tracking can improve marketing campaigns, target ads more effectively, and increase sales. Without the right attribution models, it becomes difficult to determine which channels work and which don’t.

How cross-device tracking works

Cross-device tracking works by linking together a customer's online activity across multiple devices. Some tools, such as Google Analytics, help to track user behavior through other platforms (like Google Search and Google Ads). Google Analytics 4 also uses AI/ML to estimate user behavior with deterministic data.

Once a customer's activity has been linked, businesses can use this information to track their behavior across different devices, like laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. But, in terms of privacy, it should be noted some platforms, such as many Apple iOS platforms, will try to protect privacy by obscuring user behavior, device IDs, and user IDs.

Cross-device tracking and marketing insights

Cross-device tracking can improve marketing insights by giving businesses a complete view of their customers' behavior. These data points and metrics build out a more robust customer journey.

For example, cross-device tracking can be used to track the following:

  • Which devices customers use to interact with your brand: This information can be used to create more targeted marketing campaigns that reach customers on the devices they use most often. For instance, your company might prioritize advertising through a mobile app if most users are on mobile devices.

  • What websites customers visit before and after seeing your website: Your marketing platform can help track where users come from and where they go. This information can be used to identify the websites most likely to drive traffic to your website.

  • What makes your customers leave: Cross-device tracking reports can even be used to improve the functionality of your product, by adding the functionality your users use most… or desire. If your customers are frequently leaving to another website, it could be that you don’t have the functionality they need.

  • What actions customers take on your website: This information can be used to identify the most effective marketing campaigns and improve your website's conversion rate. You can improve user experience by making these actions easier to access.

Here are some specific examples of how cross-device tracking can be used to improve marketing insights:

  • Identifying potential customers: Cross-device tracking can identify prospective customers who have visited your website but have not yet made a purchase. You can then use paid ads to create targeted marketing campaigns directed at these people. 

  • Tracking the effectiveness of marketing messaging: Cross-device tracking can be used to track the effectiveness of marketing campaigns by measuring the number of customers who visit your website after seeing your ads. If customers are going down, but users are still seeing your ads, it may be that you need to fine-tune your messaging.

  • Improving the customer experience with personalized recommendations: Cross-device tracking can be used to improve the customer experience by providing customers with personalized recommendations and by making it easier for them to find the information they are looking for. For instance, many marketplaces will use the personal data of a single user to create a "You might be interested in" category.

Cross-device tracking and marketing attribution

Marketing attribution refers to identifying which marketing channels are responsible for causing sales. Cross-device tracking is ultimately closely linked to marketing attribution. Without being able to track users across devices, your marketing attribution model may not be complete.

Users frequently use different types of devices for different things; they might look up products on their phones but only purchase products on their laptops. Or, they might listen to a podcast and then buy it on their desktop computer. So, if you're only tracking the acquisition device, you might assume you only need to optimize for large screens.

By tracking customers' online activity across multiple devices, businesses get a complete picture of which marketing channels are driving sales. Otherwise, they have incomplete information and could actually move away from their consumer rather than toward them. 

Cross-device tracking and privacy

Cross-device tracking can potentially raise privacy concerns. The information collected through cross-device tracking can build a detailed profile of a customer's interests and habits, which can then target them with ads. This isn't inherently wrong, but if a customer doesn't agree to this type of tracking, it violates their privacy.

Here are some critical steps that an organization can take to mitigate the privacy concerns associated with cross-device tracking:

  • Get consent from customers: Businesses should get consent from customers before tracking their online activity across multiple devices, much like they should require an opt-in for texts.

  • Give customers control over their data: Businesses should give customers the ability to control how their data is used. This includes the ability to opt out of cross-device tracking and to delete their data when they want to. Customers should also be able to request the data a business has about them at any time as part of general privacy regulations.

  • Be transparent about how data is used: Businesses should be transparent about how they use data collected through cross-device tracking, by having a data protection and privacy policy on their websites and mobile apps.

Get closer to your customers today

By understanding how cross-device tracking works and how it can be used, businesses can gain a competitive edge in the ever-changing world of online marketing. Cross-device targeting builds greater understanding of the device paths an individual user might take and the ways they interact with an organization.

But at the end of the day, cross-device tracking is all about marketing attribution. You need a powerful, multi-channel platform if you're looking for ways to improve your marketing attribution.

Emotive Attribution provides an all-in-one dashboard for all your marketing strategies and channels—so you can consolidate and analyze your data in a single location. With Emotive Attribution, you can monitor the effectiveness of your marketing strategies and improve your customer engagement across platforms and devices.

Check out Emotive Attribution today.