Too Much Programmatic Still Targets Devices, Not Users

By Marc Grabowski, EVP Global Supply and Business Development, Criteo

The next big thing in programmatic this year is actually not that new. Cross-device marketing that includes mobile is the biggest trend in programmatic buying in 2017. This has obviously been going on for some time now, but this year we are really seeing revenues and purchase behavior moving over from desktop to mobile and tablets.

A recent study, “The State of Cross-Device Commerce,” found it’s now 40% of the total, a rise of 20% year-on-year – clearly a considerable increase. That may not be particularly surprising, but we are also seeing that the actual customer journey is longer and involves more devices than some in the industry had anticipated.

In short, with this rapid growth comes a problem. Too many marketers still look at things in terms of device-view versus user-view. Not to be over-simplistic, but device-view is if you look at how people are interacting with the brand on a single device. User-view is if you look at the user across all devices. 



User-view has to be viewed as more significant because of the exponential increase we have seen in multiple-device campaigns, primarily since mobile entered the mix. Their proven efficacy (see below) makes user-view strategies desirable and inevitable. That said, there is still too much focus on devices in their own right.

The study found that if you take a device-centric view, about 43% of transactions take place in the first visit to a website. But if you take a user-centric view, you see that it’s only 32% on the first visit. That means that, looking at a user across multiple devices along their journey, the path to purchase is longer than may be perceived when taking a (for instance) mobile-only view.

So it’s important for us to examine the value of that user and attribute that properly across multiple devices. This allows us to bid more for those users and find them in more valuable areas than if we just took a single device view.

In programmatic, this change to a user-level view makes a big difference to bid strategy. We can bid more for that shopper because we can ascribe a higher value to an advertiser longer-term, as we know more about their user behavior. 

If we’re only attributing sales to a user on a single device, the problem is we’re attributing too low. Instead of assessing a bid based on the likelihood for a user to convert on a particular device, we need to assess a bid based on the likelihood of that user to convert, period.

If we look at a device-centric view of conversions in the US, we see about a six percent conversion rate. But if we look at a user-centric view, we see that rate go up to about nine per cent. That allows us to bid up to one and a half times higher, and allows the advertiser to capture more value for that user when they’re bidding than if they were just looking at a single device.

In the end, we should remember that cross-device is not a strategy, it is a tactic; a mechanism. It requires dedicated creative across channels, clear objectives and defined audiences. And then constant measurement, looking for user patterns to act upon. 

Programmatic digital display in the US is expected to increase to almost $27 billion in 2017. Cross-device will only grab an ever larger share of the pot as marketers and agencies alike focus less on the rise of mobile itself as a device and more on the end user.

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