Getting A Cross-Device View of the User is a Behavior Problem, Not A Technology Problem
One discussed shift is the desire businesses have to understand a customer along their entire journey (online/offline/marketing touch points/across devices/etc,) These discussions led to my comment, regarding the cross-device challenge:
In this post, I hope to expand on these thoughts.
Now, on with the post…
Regardless of the business model, organisations commonly express a desire to be able to track the “holistic customer journey”, tackle the “cross device challenge” or “get a 360 degree customer view.” (Congrats! You just won Buzzword Bingo!) This is a complex challenge and even starting “simple” (for example, by trying to first tie behavior across devices) encounters hurdles.
It is common to treat cross-device identification as if it were a technology problem: we just don’t have the easy, magical, perfect tools to do this with ease. However, I would argue that the most common barrier is a user behavior problem. (Or, most accurately, a user benefit problem.)
To be able to successfully tie user behavior across devices, the user needs to self-identify (typically via login.) Technology can get around this but attempts to do so are reliant upon a lot of assumptions, a less-than-explicit opt-in, or downright “creepy” methods (“zombie cookies”, anyone?)
The businesses that successfully track multi-device behavior either:
- Have a business model that requires login to use core functionality (for example, Facebook, Netflix or Bank of America), or
- Provide such benefit to logging in that it’s a no-brainer for the user (for example, Amazon, Zappos or Twitter.)
(Spoiler alert: Not every business is Amazon or Netflix.)
A click-bait content site, on the other hand, is unlikely to be successful tying together multi-device behavior, as there’s no real benefit to logging in. Users see a page view or two, but then they leave, with no real loyalty to the site.
Instead of focusing on the technology and how to implement cross-device tracking without opt-in, I would recommend business stakeholders ask themselves two questions:
- What are we offering that would make it attractive for a user to identify him/herself?
- How can we make it easy for users to do so?
Starting from a position of “What can we offer our customer?” instead of “What stealthy technology can we use?” sets your business up for a relationship of trust with the consumer – a critical component to a long-term relationship.
Some business models will be able to provide a solid benefit in exchange for self-identification. Those businesses will be best served by expanding on those benefits, and making the ease-of-use the best they can.
Other businesses may struggle, because, despite their best efforts to manufacture one, the benefit simply isn’t there. So, what if you are one of those businesses that struggles to offer enough incentive for self-identification? What should you do?
Unless you have a well defined strategy for exactly how you will act on your cross-device user view, and how that strategy will drive actual revenue, I would recommend focusing your analytics efforts on a project with more tangible returns, and revisiting cross-device at a later date. It is tempting to chase the holy grail of the “360 view”, but its value doesn’t lie in the “interesting insights” or in getting a true de-duped user count. It lies in the actions you’ll take, based on knowing I’m the same user, moving from screen to screen. Like all projects, it should be undertaken to drive the business, so start from how you’ll act on this data.
What are your thoughts? Share in the comments!
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