Cross-Device Tracking

Cross-device tracking refers to the cross-device analysis of visitor flows to a website. In this method, visitors are not tagged with a cookie, but an ID.

Background

While during the old days, Internet users surfed only via their desktop, use of web content has now been relocated to many different devices. For example, products can be discovered with a smartphone online, compared later on a tablet, and finally ordered back in the office on a pc.

Advertisers were able to easily track visitor behavior via cookies for a long time. Now they are faced with logistical challenges since users are now surfing the web with a number of different devices. Cross-device tracking is supposed to handle this situation by making it possible to analyze user behavior, even if they use different devices to visit the website in question. This tracking method is commonly considered to be the future tracking model.

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Goals

Cross-device tracking aims to identify specific unique users, even if they enter the Internet using different routes. Based on this analysis, targeting or remarketing can be aimed better.

Implementation

In order to track the journey of a prospect or customer using Universal Analytics, the visitor must be clearly marked. Two cross-device tracking methods exist for this purpose. In one method users are marked with a fixed ID. The other method works on the basis of the user behavior with a device ID.

Cross-device tracking with user IDs

This method is often used when users clearly identify themselves through a newsletter or login. Social networks like Facebook or Twitter do cross-device tracking by assigning user codes. This method is also suitable for newspapers with a paywall or online shops for registered buyers. Once a user is marked with a unique ID, the tracking program is notified every time he logs in. If the same user uses his tablet later on and opens the website in question as an app and logs in, he can be precisely tracked.

Cross-device tracking based on device ID

The second method of cross-device tracking also works with by tagging users. But here it is done based on various aspects and templates. This way considerably more data gets collected, which is then analyzed. IP addresses, devices, browsers or apps are marked and combined into a user profile. The disadvantage of this method is that it is not as accurate as profiling using an ID. But IDs can be created with it, without users needing to register or log in.

Criticism

Like almost all tracking methods in which user data is collected, cross-device tracking is often criticized to be in violation of privacy policy or data security. Because it is theoretically technically possible to associate user logins, user behavior, visitor paths, and personal preferences on the web with a specific person. It is therefore important for advertisers and publishers alike to comply with the applicable data protection and privacy regulations and to ensure that user IDs will be stored anonymously.

Benefits for online marketing

Cross-device tracking allows advertisers especially when retargeting, to tailor the advertising material precisely to potential customers. At the same time change of media between PC, tablet or smartphone can be utilized for targeted marketing activities. Advertisers can address customers even more effectively depending on the medium.

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