Cross Device Programmatic Attribution

The term cross device programmatic attribution describes a relatively new development in the field of online marketing, which is based on cross-device tracking and programmatic buying. Technologies from programmatic buying are used to enable cross-device attribution. Cross device programmatic attribution is designed to map user behavior along the entire customer journey, regardless of which device is used to visit a website or consume other digital products, such as apps or emails. When comprehensive data about this user behavior is available, advertisements, campaigns, and performance values ​​of websites can be used more effectively. Fundamentally, this strategy is based on an approach of tracking user behavior overall, so that advertising can be shown where users are active, whether on a smartphone, tablet, desktop PC, or laptop.

General information[edit]

The use behavior on different devices has changed considerably in recent years. The mobile sector and the use of multiple devices have posed problems to marketers. They hardly know how diverse the usage behavior is from a cross-device perspective and how multiscreen usage and ROPO effects translate into practice. Users sometimes research product information and prices on a mobile device, while they watch TV and purchase the product with a different device later during the day. Moreover, the interactions between online and offline behavior are unclear if not all channels can be captured and evaluated with respect to user behavior.[1] The principles of programmatic buying and cross-device tracking are designed to solve these problems.

However, there are some fundamental difficulties. On the one hand, the attribution of end devices to users would have to resort to personal data, which could in principle infringe privacy, for example, with online IDs, cookies and user profiles. On the other hand, programmatic platforms usually work with specially developed KPIs, which cannot be used without additional processing. Bids on keywords for different devices are rarely possible.[2] To trace a coherent customer journey is therefore still proving to be difficult. There are, however, a few providers who offer programmatic buying for stationary and mobile devices, while having implemented cross-device tracking at the same time to optimize targeting or campaign strategy. These are usually big players such as Google or Facebook who invest considerable resources in the technology.[3]

How it works[edit]

The question is: How can the customer journey be mapped? By means of advanced attribution or cross-device attribution, users and various devices are supposed to be attributed to a profile or a probable usage behavior. In this context, attribution means the accurate assignment of tracking data to a user and their usage behavior as well as the addressing of data that cannot be tracked, such as the relationships between online and offline behavior. The goal is to look at all touchpoints and to assign them to the actual user behavior. The causal relationship between different terminals, usage scenarios, and conversions is decisive in this perspective.

  • Probabilistic approach: This approach is based on probability calculation and the analysis of millions of data points using algorithms. Different criteria such as the device type, geodata or operating system are recorded and compared to a user profile, similar to canvas fingerprinting. Whether and to what extent individual criteria or changes of these affect the results is extrapolated using probability values ​​for very large amounts of data and individual data sets. This allows relatively reliable statements about the way users got to the point of purchase and circumvents data protection concerns because the information used is anonymous.
  • Deterministic approach: The deterministic approach uses comparisons of predefined variables to achieve exact matching. Possible variables are user IDs, email addresses, mobile IDs or other account data, which can be unambiguously assigned to a user. Such approaches are often used by large portals such as Facebook, Twitter or Google. This is why they are also called Walled Garden. Only when the user is logged in, will the provider be able to evaluate this data. The technical infrastructure is largely closed. How precise the assignments are, depends on how large the data is. There are often concerns about the privacy of users and data protection by the provider.[4]
  • Hybrid solutions: There are certain approaches that use both methods in different parts. This way, data from partners can be used as a deterministic basis, whereas matching is otherwise only probable. Inversely, probability-based approaches can be enriched with deterministic data in order to increase the precision. [5] The specific design of the attribution is left to the provider of the cross device programmatic attribution.

Relevance to online marketing[edit]

Cross device programmatic attribution is at the starting line in online marketing. However, the number of different channels and devices represents a major obstacle for advertising and optimization of advertising campaigns. Cross device programmatic attribution is intended to overcome this hurdle by integrating different devices and channels. Accordingly, these approaches can be regarded as a key component of multichannel marketing. However, there is legitimate criticism regarding privacy and data protection. Because most users do not notice such channel and cross-device tracking and the legal situation is not always clear.

The marketers on the other hand, see the benefits of increased effectiveness, greater targeting, and the knowledge of the entire customer journey of their potential customers. The goal is to achieve a seamless user experience that can handle all channels without breaks in the usage behavior. These breaches sometimes result in the customer experience not being able to be tracked by the provider.[6]


  1. Understanding Cross-Device Attribution And Adjusting Campaigns Accordingly Accessed on 05/12/2016
  2. Why Marketers Struggle With Cross-Platform Programmatic Accessed on 05/12/2016
  3. A Marketer’s Guide To Cross-Device Identity Accessed on 05/12/2016
  4. Cross-Device Attribution 101 Accessed on 12/05/2016
  5. Executive Brief: The Art of Cross-Device Attribution In Evolving Digital Space Accessed on 05/12/2016
  6. Seamlessness in the Cross-Channel User Experience Accessed on 05/12/2016

Web Links[edit]