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How Google’s Cross Device Tracking Will Improve Marketer’s Understanding of User Behavior

By Jonathan Crowl on August 16, 2018

As the rise in prominence of mobile devices, digital voice assistants, and app-based payment tools adds more pathways throughout the online customer journey, accurate attribution has become a greater challenge for digital marketers. Although we’ve understood for a long time that consumers typically take a winding, multi-channel path to most conversions, getting a clear breakdown of how each of these touch points contributes to that end stage has been hard to determine with much certainty.

In the past, popular reporting tools like Google Analytics separated desktop and mobile metrics-deriving insights mainly from a last-click attribution model. This system gave total conversion credit to whatever format a user last accessed your content on before committing to a final decision without deeper analysis into what was likely a series of multiple visits and clicks along the way.

Thankfully, Google Analytics has now upped its game. The business service recently announced cross-device tracking functionality that combines desktop and mobile sessions into the same customer path, providing a more comprehensive view of the customer experience. With this improved understanding of how consumers visit your website and progress through the funnel leading to a conversion, businesses can optimize their marketing strategy and better speak to their customers’ wants and needs.

There may be no such thing as a perfect attribution model-not yet, anyway-but with better tools, businesses can make informed decisions about how to best target an audience and tailor content to specific customer segments. When Google Analytics separated mobile and desktop metrics, marketers only got a partial view of their customer’s journey. Now, those same businesses have much-improved tools to understand their audience and shape their marketing strategy to encompass the way users truly interact with their products and how each point of contact connects within a larger narrative.

Here’s a look at how cross-device tracking in Google Analytics can lift your attribution efforts to new heights.

multiple personal devices

Image attribution: Eric Lucatero

Opening the Door to Better Attribution

To support better attribution for businesses, Google Analytics reporting will feature three new ways of analyzing activity and generating meaningful insights.

Device Overlap

This report shows the types of devices being used by your audience, helping businesses understand how their website and content are being reached. From there, consumer groups can be segmented to analyze engagement, conversion rates, and other data points for each device, with the hope of identifying trends worth addressing, such as high-performing numbers for one device type, or struggles to drive conversions from another. The data is rendered visually in a Venn diagram to quickly distinguish single-device users from users who use two or three types of devices (desktop, mobile, and/or tablet), and to illustrate the size of these device sub-groups within your overall audience.

Device Paths

This report illustrates the ways in which users move from one device to another, providing an easy-to-understand explanation of convoluted consumer movement. This report gives shape and clarity to cross-device activities that have traditionally been hard to understand. You can also separate out the single-device consumers from multi-device consumers, allowing you to compare engagement and other metrics to identify trends among these user groups. This report will be very valuable in understanding the anticipated engagement activity for a specific device at a specific point in the conversion process, providing information to help marketers create relevant, valuable content and strategies to serve every part of the funnel-and across every device.

Acquisition Device Report

This report combines the Google Analytics reporting on attribution and traffic metrics to identify relationships between acquisitions and conversions. This report will tell you how consumers move from one device to another to make a conversion, or whether they stay on the same device all the way through. These users can also be segmented to better understand cross-device behaviors. You can easily view users who are acquired via tablet but convert on desktops, users who are acquired and converted on mobile, and so on. This report will help you understand how each device is contributing to your company’s marketing efforts.

Translating Cross-Device Insights into Smarter Campaigns

cross-device tracking offers multiple paths in the buyer's journey

Image attribution: Justin Luebke

With cross-device tracking now enabled in Google Analytics, businesses have much better tools for creating content that serves the entire customer journey. As What’s New in Publishing points out, the insights coming from these reports can shape your brand marketing efforts in a number of ways, especially when it comes to granular campaigns and strategies targeting smaller segments.

Marketers can use these cross-device reports to create funnel-specific content, adjust messaging to speak more directly to stages in the customer journey, optimize content for various devices and operating systems, or even reallocate budgets based on the ROI being driven by specific device paths. New audience segments may be created that weren’t a consideration in the past, and remarketing efforts can be overhauled based on the more comprehensive information available for anonymized customer profiles.

Given the value they offer in terms of understanding your audience and drawing connections between seemingly unrelated data points, businesses would be overlooking a big opportunity by ignoring the insights available through cross-device tracking. Understanding conversion attribution is a never-ending challenge for marketers, and these new Google Analytics reporting assets are a huge lift to anyone trying to clear away the fog. Take some time to access these reports and see what you might learn about the audience you thought you knew.

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Featured image attribution: Ashley Batz

Author

Jonathan Crowl

Jonathan Crowl specializes in digital marketing and content creation for both B2B and B2C brands, with an emphasis on startups and technology. His past and current clients include B2B brands IBM, LinkedIn, Mad Mobile, Oktopost, BrightSpot, and Waze, as well as B2C brands Porsche, Epson, and PayPal. He lives in Minneapolis.