Cross-Device Digital Measurement: How to Track a Convoluted Consumer Journey

 In Consumer Insights

These days, many consumers routinely use multiple devices to research and make purchases. These usage patterns obviously create a convoluted trail for marketers to follow as they attempt to track the buyer’s journey and make smart decisions about when, where, and how to reach consumers.

So, how do we know how many devices consumers are really using, and which ones they prefer? And what does “cross-device measurement” really mean?

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Above, I’ve used Verto’s panel-based measurement data to create a simple Venn diagram that illustrates the different device types consumers use today to access the Internet, visit web sites, engage with apps, and research and shop online. Each of the four bubbles represents a specific device type; for the sake of (relative!) simplicity, I’ve only included smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop PCs to highlight the overlap, in terms of monthly usage, across device types.

For example, the green-colored segment on the bottom represents people in the market who actively use both a smartphone and tablet device, but not any of the PCs (laptops or PCs). This segment is 4% of the overall US online population.

According to recent Verto data, the U.S. online universe for the key device platforms breaks down as follows:

  • 32% of online users own both a desktop and a laptop device.
  • 9% of online users own just a mobile device.
  • 11% of online users own just a PC device.
  • 80% of online users own at least one mobile and one PC device.
  • 44% of online users own at least one smartphone, one tablet, and one PC device.
  • 1.7% of online users own only other online devices, such as Smart TVs – but not PCs or mobile devices at all (not visualized above)

Basically, our data shows not all consumers are cross-device users. Rather, key subtleties exist between different types of cross-device usage, and there are a variety of types of cross-device users. There is also a smaller segment of users that continue to exhibit single-device usage behaviors.

The norm, however, is that people are increasingly more likely to use multiple device platforms rather than just one.

Verto’s Approach to Cross-Device Audience Measurement: Single-Source and Metered Panels

When it comes to accurately tracking cross-device measurement (without going cross-eyed), here are the questions I get most frequently from Verto Analytics customers:

    1. How does your metering technology work?
    2. How do you track panelists across mobile and PC devices?
    3. How many devices do you meter, per panelist, on average?

Verto’s approach to audience measurement is based on high-quality, single-source cross-device meter panels. We put the consumer at the center of everything; and our approach makes it possible to connect a wide variety of data points – from online behaviors to demographics, or from purchase transactions to media-viewing habits – to the same, single user.

Why is this particular approach beneficial? A single-source panel is just one panel of consumers. Limiting the data and focusing the measurement into this single operational entity in this way mitigates the challenges typically associated with multi-panel approaches; without a single-source panel, you’ll have to model and fuse data from different mutually exclusive panels. That means you’ll lose accuracy and will have to rely on assumptions as opposed to working with deterministic data, and you cannot easily deep-dive into specific segments of consumers or follow a certain consumer across the all hours of the day across all devices.

Ultimately our insistence on using only a single-source panel produces more comprehensive, complete data. This helps us create strong relationships with customers that leverage robust data as part of their value proposition; for example, our approach to panel measurement is the reason Google has used Verto’s single-source meter panel in some of its recent cross-device journey work.

What Does Cross-Device Digital Usage Mean?

The reality is, different people, opt to use certain devices to shop and make purchases, but it really depends on the user. Among the top 10 device types (smartphones, tablets, PCs, smart speakers, smart TVs, gaming consoles, streaming media players etc.) we track at Verto, very few consumers use every single device they own when shopping.

Similarly, only a minority uses exactly one device actively – for example, just one PC device or just one mobile device. This is just how the online universe is built: different devices have different market penetrations, and there are all kinds of segments for cross-device ownership.

No matter when, where, and how your customers are shopping online, it’s important to get a clear and complete portrait of their behavior online. The better you can accurately gauge cross-device measurement, the better your chances of crafting a highly successful, targeted marketing strategy to find and meet customers wherever they go.

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