It’s astonishing to think that in just a few years the single most important marketing strategy – once viewed as a pipedream – has now become foundational to all marketing initiatives. No, I’m not talking about mobile. I’m talking about cross-device identity.

Three years ago, cross-device was a small, experimental portion of marketing budgets, which were otherwise largely dedicated to desktop and mobile, as separate silos. Today, cross-device is central to the entire marketing budget, as using multiple devices throughout the day is the only way we as consumers research, shop, and socialise.

When cross-device first emerged, the debate among marketers revolved around how good cross-device solutions were, especially as it related to precision, scale, and overall usefulness in improving campaigns. The many questions around attribution, validation and evaluation tempered brand excitement.

Today, those questions of precision, scale, and applications have been resolved, as cross-device graph providers have demonstrated their value in connecting devices to a single person or household. With questions of validity put to rest, marketers now have to do different homework when considering a cross-device solution. It’s also assumed that a marketer will evaluate multiple graphs before making the decision to license one, as opposed to approaching one vendor and working through that relationship in a linear way.

With this new cross-device reality in mind, here are four critical questions marketers must consider today when evaluating a cross-device solution.

How easily can I see the graph?

Over the past year, there has been a greater discussion among marketers around data access. How easy it is for a brand, agency, or enterprise to get their hands on a graph and evaluate it against others? Cross-device identity is no longer something kept in a black box. Marketers want to understand what kind of data they’re getting with a cross-device graph, and they want that access in near real-time, not weeks or months. As a marketer, one of your first questions should be how quickly you can see a cross-device breakdown of your customer base. This desire for access and transparency had made a difference: Today graph vendors are starting to provide more options for speed, control, and flexibility in the analysis of their partners’ audiences’ cross-device behaviour.

How customisable is the data?

Data customisation is becoming more and more important as an ever-increasing number of companies are looking to digital identity as a means of delivering seamless customer experiences on the internet.

But because every brand and enterprise has a different need, they need different solutions. The thresholds for acceptable precision, recall, coverage, global reach, device types, lookback window, and more are all different. One size does not fit all. The ability to tune their graphs to the specific KPIs of their business, therefore, becomes invaluable.

Clearly, these are signs of a maturing industry, where marketers are itching to get their hands on cross-device identity outside of the walled gardens, and have seen first-hand what value it brings to their campaigns. Meanwhile, as opposed to educating marketers on the need for cross-device identity, today’s solutions will race to meet them.

Is the data portable?

In addition to ease of use and customisation, a marketer should understand the terms of portability around any cross-device data solution they license. For instance, Google and Facebook recently upgraded the cross-device targeting and measurement solutions within their ads platforms, but marketers won’t be able to take that identity data out of those walled gardens and leverage it internally or across other marketing platforms. Frustration with the walled garden approach taken by these internet platforms has only increased over the past several years. A recent study found that marketers today are essentially walled garden hostages: they may want greater access to the data about their consumers, but they rely on the scale of Facebook or Google in order to reach bigger audiences (even if they don’t learn anything about the people they reach). Data portability comes down to the marketers’ ability to leverage that data across different platforms at will, which obviously deepens their understanding of their customers wherever they are. 

How can I use cross-device data beyond advertising?

Cross-device identity was validated in the context of digital advertising around five years ago, but today its applications reach far beyond that. Take the example of an e-commerce site. For digital commerce, cross-device identity can be used for measuring the path to conversion across devices, as well as for site personalisation in terms of product recommendations, by combining cross-device browsing history to recommend products and offer custom content. A cross-device provider should have deep experience and be able to speak to the various use cases, with evidence supporting how they’ve helped various brands and enterprises reach their specific marketing goals.