Dark Horses In The Cross-Device Targeting Race

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evanschwartz“Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Evan Schwartz, CEO at ActionX.

Brands are paying closer attention to the benefits of broadening their mobile-only campaigns to include multiple consumer devices.

This shift in strategy reflects a growing demand to connect with busy consumers at every step of the path to purchase. The trick is how to trace consumers back to all of their devices to deliver a unified and customized marketing message that resonates with each customer.

Speculation abounds about which tech giant will crack the code and map each consumer to each device first. Given the incredible amount of granular cross-screen consumer data at their disposal, Facebook, Apple, Google and Twitter are the usual suspects. But tech startups and established ad networks are also working to match devices and owners through probabilistic algorithms.

There are, however, two groups flying under the radar that offer a unique competitive advantage when it comes to connecting all the dots: retailers and subscription brands. Both require customer account logins across all screens and typically have huge customer bases that offer a trove of useful consumer data.

Multiscreen subscription services, such as Spotify, Hulu and Netflix, have subscribers who interact with their platforms across PCs, phones, tablets and TVs. Similarly, pure-play ecommerce brands and omnichannel retailers also see consumers engage with their brands across multiple screens as they do everything from product research to actual purchasing.

The benefits that come from understanding cross-screen data cannot be understated. Personalized merchandising gleaned from browsing behavior can lead to more accuracy in recommendations and retail offers. Customers who interact with brands on a variety of platforms are routinely among the highest value customers; leveraging their cross-screen data for retargeting improves the odds that the content being delivered has more relevance to them. A richer understanding of customers clearly leads to a more robust return on a marketers' ad spend. And retailers offering third-party advertising opportunities can bring more precision to cross-screen targeting for brands looking to reach specific audiences.

The data matching consumers with their devices is out there, often piecemeal, but few companies have sewn it together in a way that makes it actionable. At the same time, savvy marketers are waking up to the opportunity that a smart, privacy-focused cross-screen strategy represents.

Here are a few tips on getting the most out of your own cross-screen data — and not getting outsmarted by the competition:

The customer comes first: Closely examine how your customers interact with your brand across all of their devices. Consider the numerous advantages to streamlining the experience through cross-screen data for all of your marketing messages, including merchandising, emails, push notifications, retargeting and advertising.

Assemble the right team: A great marketer, product expert, techie and privacy expert can all help process what you currently collect, who your partners are and where this information is stored. Chances are that you may already have the tools to begin building cross-screen profiles. If not, see what's lacking in your data strategy and determine if your current vendors can help connect the dots with you.

Collecting the right data is relatively easy: The real challenge is using it for personalization, segmentation, attribution, ad targeting and so on. In other words, if your email vendor and retargeting partner can customize advertising and messaging across all screens, then you'll need a way to post the data to your vendor.

Taking the time to develop and execute a cross-screen data strategy is imperative to connecting with consumers in a more personalized way. Amazon offers a great example of a company that is personalizing every experience and marketing message on each screen. Consumer behavior informs merchandising, emails and retargeted ads that may start on the mobile Web, cross over to the Amazon app and close as a sale on the desktop. Amazon often leads the way on making consumer experiences better through data, but every retailer needs to catch up quickly.

Given the head-spinning pace of technology and the continued proliferation of more consumer devices, there is an immediate opportunity for retail and subscription brands to serve consumers through more insightful cross-device data. In the end, consumers win when brands connect with them by demonstrating an informed understanding of their needs and tastes.

Follow Evan Schwartz, (@evanschwartz), ActionX (@ActionXInc) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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One Response to “Dark Horses In The Cross-Device Targeting Race”


  1. Steve says:

    I can't see how companies like Netflix and Hulu are dark horses-- they aren't even in the same race. They don't need Google or Facebook to crack the code because they have everything they need to crack it themselves. If they are dark horses with regard to helping adtech companies match users outside of, or in supplement to probabilistic approaches (since the big guys would never give out that info) I'm not sure there is a privacy friendly way for them to share that data. Tapad has already gone down that road and had some privacy issues...

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