Commentary

Solving The Cross-Device Dilemma

As device proliferation continues to grow exponentially, the need to reach consumers across all screens has become an increasingly critical component of a marketers’ advertising strategy. This is particularly true when brands seek to effectively reach consumers throughout all stages of the purchase funnel with personalized creative at scale.

There are, however, numerous limitations on existing solutions that claim to reach consumers across all of their Internet-connected devices. Marketers should be wary of technology that overpromises and under-delivers, because despite the efforts made to achieve a single customer view—the Holy Grail of marketing—cross-device matching and customer identification still remain largely unsolved challenges.

While cross-device technology enables marketers to link devices across screens, establishing attribution and maintaining a high level of accuracy with extensive reach can be difficult. Probabilistic models typically sacrifice accuracy for reach—and vice-versa, depending upon the marketer’s needs.

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The missing piece of the puzzle that is the cross-device dilemma is, and always will be, identity management. Have either probabilistic or deterministic targeting methods succeeded in solving the challenges presented by targeting anonymous users based on data provided through cookies? Absolutely not.

In contrast, a people-based approach enables marketers to confidently target with both reach and frequency across the entire customer lifecycle.

The cookie is an outdated mechanism that was never designed to shoulder the burden of tracking and managing consumer profiles for the advertising industry. Today, advertisers are experiencing a rise in data loss due to cookie churn, a consistent issue that has a direct impact on scaling, measuring, and accurately targeting consumers. One could argue that next to fraud, the cookie-based advertising model is responsible for the largest waste of ad spend in history. While the cookie isn’t going to disappear anytime soon, advertisers undoubtedly need a viable, identity-based solution moving forward.

By identity, I’m referring to actual consumers, not anonymous cookies. In order to target based on identity, marketers need to leverage their CRM’s first-party data and a people-based approach to truly own the customer relationship across online and offline channels.

Targeting based on identity and first-party data represents an inevitable long-term disruption in the digital advertising market. Through this customer-centric approach, marketers can ensure that their ads are more relevant, and that their media spend is being allocated appropriately. Marketers that adopt this approach and devise a strategy for prioritizing the acquisition and integration of first-party data will find that their campaigns perform better and succeed at reducing fraud and wasted ad spend.

A people-based approach also addresses the challenges that come along with the growth in mobile. Mobile ad spending is finally expected to exceed desktop in 2016, with that growth attributed to the widespread adoption of mobile devices and more time spent by more and more consumers.

Mobile, however, has taken years to grow as a viable channel, in part because of the lack of information that mobile devices initially provided about consumers’ online activities. While initially cookie-based modeling was used for mobile as the only option, it’s been one fraught with limitations. Two thirds of IP-connected devices don’t accept cookies. On top of this, cookies create a highly fragmented environment for mobile apps, since mobile apps operate independently and don’t share information with other apps.

Now, with people-based advertising, marketers can establish direct relationships with consumers, helping to close the loop on cross-device attribution. 

The accuracy of cross-device technology is rooted in the device graph, which only works as well as its ability to find matches at scale (reach) with a high level of accuracy. Historically, if a marketer wants scale, accuracy takes a hit, and again, vice versa. Not any more. Strategic marketing is data-driven, and when there’s high-quality data, marketers can improve the effectiveness of their ad spend, leaving consumers with an improved experience all around.

Without a doubt, marketers with first-party data are going to be the ones who solve their cross-device challenges first.

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