What is Cross-Device Targeting and Why You Should Do It

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Consumers live their lives across multiple screens each day – oftentimes interacting with many of them at the same time. Savvy marketers have caught on and are now relying more and more on cross-device targeting to target, reach, engage, and convert the same consumers – in different ways and sometimes with different messages – on different devices.

Oftentimes, this also involves a bit of “retargeting” or, simply stated, surfacing an ad to a consumer after they’ve already visited your website, engaged with your brand on social media, or searched for products and services you offer using keywords you’ve chosen to associate with your brand.

Honestly, the idea and general concept of cross-device targeting sounds quite simple. However, in practice, it can be quite tricky to follow a single consumer’s path to purchase as it zigzags across platforms, devices, and the online and offline worlds.

Let’s take a shopper who, for example, left a pair of running shoes abandoned in an online shopping cart in a desktop browser in order to ask friends on Facebook – via his or her mobile device, of course – for recommendations. In the past, engaging zigzagging consumers like this example here meant that marketers had to essentially start from scratch (engagement-wise) every time consumers hopped from one device to another.

Cross-device targeting alleviates a good amount of that disconnect. Thanks in part to more sophisticated algorithms and, more generally speaking, the greater amount of knowledge we now have about consumer behavior today, marketers can essentially “follow” consumers along their path to purchase, using all the advertising tools in their arsenal to engage them every step of the way and, hopefully, lead them to eventually make a purchase.

Benefits of Cross-Device Targeting

One of the biggest benefits of cross-device targeting is that it makes it possible for marketers to create a more relevant user experience for potential customers while simultaneously helping improve the brand’s overall reputation and visibility across desktop, mobile, and beyond. In addition to that, here are a couple more key benefits worth keeping top of mind:

  • Reach customers when and where they are most likely to buy.
    Cross-device targeting allows brands to reach consumers not only wherever they are, but also in the moments when they are most likely to make a purchase. Whether in the middle of a morning commute with device in hand, in line at the grocery store checking social media, sitting on the couch while watching TV, or shopping online in the middle of the work day (tisk tisk!), they can be reached, engaged, and eventually converted into a paying customer at pretty much any point in their day.
  • Gain greater insights into consumer behavior.
    Cross-device targeting provides a wealth of data and insights to marketers, helping them understand today’s consumer behavior with more clarity and specificity so they can deploy marketing campaigns that better align to those behaviors and needs. You can learn when, where, and how your target audience uses social media, shops online, searches for products and services, and, more broadly, goes about their daily lives. Having that kind of knowledge at your fingertips means you can develop ad campaigns and content (paid or otherwise) that have a much better chance of engaging potential customers when they are more likely and ready to engage with your brand. This, in turn, creates a more relevant experience for consumers as they zigzag from device to device.

The Future of Digital Advertising?

It’s clear that cross-device targeting isn’t perfect yet, but neither was re-targeting using cookies when online advertisers first jumped on that bandwagon. As we move to an increasingly media-saturated and mobile-centric world, it’s becoming evident that attempting to reach consumers via single-channel marketing strategies only misses the boat. This may not necessarily be the future of digital advertising – as it’s already being done in a big way today – but its growing relevance in the industry as a whole is a pretty clear indicator of what direction the world of advertising is moving in as well as how marketers – especially national brands with a local footprint – need to adapt to stay ahead of the curve.


Photo Credit: SimplePix via photopin (license)

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