The average family in Europe now has 10 digital devices. In fact across the EU-5, an estimated 170.4 million people own a smartphone and household penetration of tablets in the region increased from only 18% in 2012 to almost 50% in 2014. The plethora of new and increasingly smart mobile devices presents a great opportunity for marketers and advertisers to understand better where and when to target consumers. 

However, if a person has a smartphone, tablet and laptop for personal use and a laptop for work use, it may surprise you to learn that these four devices are being perceived as six to eight consumers instead of one. This is what happens when we commit the basic error of treating each online identifier (be it a browser cookie, Apple IDFA, Google Advertising ID, or any other anonymised ID) as unique individuals. This device-centric approach leads to a number of concerning issues that range from devaluing mobile page views to inaccurate conversion attribution, ultimately leading to sub-optimal allocation of marketing budgets.

What if we accept that today’s consumers tend to own multiple digital devices and build our marketing programmes around marketing to people not devices? We would start by linking all previously siloed IDs under a single unified ID. 

Don’t base campaigns on impression numbers

A probabilistic method can make highly accurate predictions of device ownership. It identifies a consumer by using machine learning and data mining techniques that analyse signals, including frequency of device usage, location, IP address, web content and app usage behaviour, and time of day over 7-14 days. This system can then keep learning; for example, an app you’ve installed to track a competitor at work isn’t a personal interest and it will learn the usage behaviour – instead of serving ads for this brand it will send you ads you have converted on previously. Using this method, and actively changing how attributions are found and measured across devices, can increase conversion rates by 30-40%. Marketers will also avoid the risk of paying large amounts for ads that are ineffective.

This unified ID would enable marketers to build more complete consumer intelligence, make better advertising decisions based on a more holistic view of a consumer, and have more moments to influence their target consumer no matter what device she is using. This puts marketing budget to good use, by actually reaching consumers and not basing campaigns on numbers of impressions.

A single unified ID

So how can we start gathering this cross-device intelligence? One effective way of doing this is by creating a single ID that combines all relevant consumer data from multiple owned devices. These unified profiles don’t just include a user’s different devices, but also encompass different browsers on a single device or multiple devices of the same kind. This gives us a more complete picture of a users’ digital touch points and a large amount of data to make informed decisions, up to 200% more data in fact on average, than if making decisions based on a single-device profile.

This enables marketers to make decisions based on people and not devices, thus better targeting them – as ads will be served with knowledge of all device usage, knowing where and when individuals are engaged at each moment. In fact, we further optimise these transactions by not categorising budget by channel and instead putting it to its best use by spending according to acquisition results. 

This is only the beginning; the secret of cross-device optimisation leveraging these unified profiles for informed decision making and improved campaign performance on a large scale. Importance has to be placed on the audience who is actually viewing, interacting, and ultimately converting. We need to use automated learning to correlate devices and ensure we are serving consumers less intrusive and more relevant ads.