With the rise in mobile commerce over the past few years, the way in which consumers have interacted with brands has evolved considerably. With connectivity possible through a number of devices consumers are always ‘online’. This has led to increasingly complex customer journeys, spanning not only multiple channels but also multiple devices. A key challenge for advertisers is to unravel the mystery where customer journeys have encompassed multiple devices.

Within affiliate marketing if a customer journey was previously across multiple devices, an affiliate would not be rewarded for a sale if the converting device was different to the one the customer had originally clicked through. With accurate and measurable cross-device tracking in place, it is possible to gain insights into influencing devices and where customer journeys are starting. It enables patterns to be identified across the day to help advertisers better plan and execute their marketing activity.

The chart below looks at the cross-device sales for a retail brand and the device the customer first interacted with. This is broken down by the time of day to give an insight into how different devices are used across a 24 hour period. While desktop is the dominant device throughout the day, the role of smartphones as an initiator pre and post working hours is clearly evident. Consumers are researching their purchases on the go before transacting on another device at a later point. It is also interesting to note that the majority of multi-device transactions have started on a desktop (48%) prior to converting on another device. This could be the cross over between work and home computer rather than a different device category all together.

Tablets peak as initiators in the evening from 18:00 – 22:00.

So having looked at the timeframes where sales are initiated, it is also possible to look at the trends based on conversion time. Do the peaks in conversion differ significantly from when the initial click in a multi-device transaction took place?

There is a clear trend that conversions typically take place later in the day. The chart below shows the device that initiated the sale (rather than the converting device) and the timeframe of the conversion. It is evident that while research takes place on smartphones early in the morning, probably on the morning commute, this traffic doesn’t actually convert until later in the day.

Without cross-device tracking being enabled, it would be impossible to understand the role a device played in the customer journey in the research phase and an affiliate would not be rewarded for delivering a sale that converted on another device.

The chart below combines the two previous charts and plots the originating click time and the conversion time. This shows that there is a higher rate of clicks than conversions across all devices early morning and the peak conversion time for each originating device is between 18:00 and 22:00. This highlights customer journeys that start early in the morning/late at night are more likely to be research clicks, with conversions at a lower rate.

It has also been possible to analyse the data to see if there are certain trends for weekdays vs. weekends. A quarter of sales which started on a smartphone during the week had this initial interaction before 08:00 or after 22:00 while this percentage is lower at weekends. Again this ties in with the weekday commute being a time for researching purchases.

Traffic from desktop and tablet peaks earlier at the weekend (14:00 – 18:00) than during the week while smartphone is 18:00 – 22:00 regardless of day.

Switching attention to conversions there is not as much variation in conversion times when comparing weekdays to weekends compared with the research phase of customer journeys. Peak conversion time for sales that started on each device is 18:00 – 22:00 both during the week and at weekends.

Around 25% of sales starting on each device are converted between 14:00 – 18:00 during the week.

Traffic originating from a mobile device has exceeded 50% across the network and smartphones have been the device driving this trend with almost 28% of traffic being generated by smartphones. However, we see a disconnect between traffic and sales originating from a smartphone with just 17% of sales. This points to poorer conversion rates through smartphones. Has this data actually been miss-understood though? While they may not convert as well, there is no denying the role of smartphones as an initiating or casual browsing device. 28% of cross device transactions we have recorded initiated from a smartphone. Before cross-device tracking was in place, these sales would not have been recorded and the role smartphones play in customer journeys would not have shown the complete picture. Perhaps our perception of phones not playing a strong part in conversions is out of line with what is actually happening.

The chart below focusses on smartphone activity and considers when the sale was initiated vs when it converted and compares weekdays to weekends. A lot more sales are initiated between 00:00 and 08:00 and 22:00 – 00:00 both during the week and at weekends. We also see:

  • Smartphone traffic exceed conversions until 14:00 at the weekend.
  • Conversions of traffic that has originated from a smartphone exceeded initiating clicks until 22:00.
  • Weekdays share of conversions from traffic that originated from a smartphone outstrip the influencing click from 08:00 – 22:00.
  • Smartphones are strong initiators of sales from 22:00 – 08:00 with conversions lagging behind.
  • During the week 24.5% of sales starting on a smartphone are between 22:00 and 08:00 whereas 12% of sales starting on a smartphone convert between these times.
  • At the weekend 18% of sales starting on a smartphone are between 22:00 and 08:00 whereas 11% of sales starting on a smartphone convert between these times.

While cross-device tracking is still very much in its infancy, it is clear that customer journeys have been misunderstood. Previously we looked at how customer journeys are longer through the affiliate channel than we had initially thought, now the role of smartphones within customer journeys can also be better understood. While smartphones may appear to be poor converters of traffic, their role in the research phase of customer journeys should not be overlooked.

While cross-device tracking helps to ensure affiliates are correctly rewarded for the sales they have generated, it also provides valuable insights for advertisers to help them better understand the more complex customer journeys that span multiple devices.

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