Cross-device insights

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It has become increasingly important for advertisers to understand the way in which customer journeys occur across multiple devices.

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With the evolution in consumer behaviour, it has become increasingly important for advertisers to understand the way in which customer journeys occur across multiple devices. For advertisers to truly understand the role of each device within customer journeys, the first step is to have the ability to track across devices.

Having launched our cross-device tracking solution 14 months ago, the data we have collected has enabled us to unravel the complexities of customer journeys. It has also helped us to challenge some of the common misconceptions associated with the affiliate channel.

As a channel that has traditionally been focussed on conversion – with the payment mechanism being based on receiving the final click, customer journeys through the affiliate channel have always been perceived to be incredibly short. Indeed, with incentivised traffic so prevalent in the channel, the time between final click and conversion is typically within 24 hours and often a lot shorter.

But has our obsession with the conversion diverted our attention away from what happens prior to this? Has it neglected to understand the role the affiliate channel plays as an influencing channel and with it the affiliates that are in fact adept at influencing purchases without necessarily driving the conversion?

The first phase of our cross-device journey helped us to better understand the role of smartphones as influencers and allowed us to challenge whether customer journeys are in fact longer than first thought. While there has often been discussion around shortening cookie lengths (as the conversion typically takes place well before the traditional 30 day cookie window), should we actually be looking to extend them? With cross-device tracking in place we have been able to challenge the misconceptions of the affiliate channel and shift the emphasis from merely rewarding the conversion. Influencer marketing has been a hot topic recently and surely the affiliate channel has been at the heart of influencer marketing long before the term became so popular.

The second phase of the journey has been to understand the interaction between different devices and the impact this has on conversions.

Having collated this data over a number of months, we are now able to investigate some further trends into the cross over between devices and the impact this has on the value of the transactions, the sales lag and also the publishers that are driving these transactions.

Device Cross Over
The following pie charts consider the devices that initiate customer journeys and those that convert. It is evident that smartphones initiate more than they convert, while desktops convert more than they initiate. This reiterates the fact that prior to capturing cross-device interactions, the role of smartphones as an initiating device was clearly misunderstood.
Also, if we consider the types of sites and the way smartphones are used, it is no surprise to see smartphones influencing more than they convert. Later in this piece the publisher promotional types that are driving early funnel influence in cross-device transactions are considered in greater depth.

Initiating and converting device types

Now we are also able to better understand the cross over between devices. For example, for sales that are initiated by smartphones, are they more likely to convert on a desktop or tablet device?

Converting device of sales starting on a mobile device

*Please note that the data above ignores cross-device interactions where the converting device type is the same as the initiating device type. E.g smartphone to smartphone

Sales Lags by Converting Device

As mentioned previously, our initial cross-device analysis enabled us to understand the true length of customer journeys and the role that smartphones play as influencers. We have also been able to explore how this varies by converting device.

The chart below considers the typical length between the initial click on a smartphone through to a conversion taking place on a secondary device. From previous research we know that the vast majority of single device sales occur within the first day of a click, with a significant share of these within the first hour.

However, cross-device tracking has seen us challenge this misconception. If we examine sales that initiated on a smartphone that eventually converted on a desktop just over 20% were in the same day. In contrast, we see in excess of 30% of sales occurring between 16-30 days after the initial research click on a smartphone.

This is a trend we see across all devices when the initial interaction was through a smartphone.

Sales lag by converting device when smartphone initiates

The chart below considers the sales that started on a smartphone that later converted on a desktop. This has taken into account the 20% of transactions within this criteria that converted within the same day. This helps to reinforce the understanding of how and when smartphones are used throughout the day.

We see a clear trend in smartphone influence during the early hours of the morning. The share of sales influenced by smartphones is greater than the share of desktop conversions we see during that period. As we progress through the day, the share of conversions outstrip that of influence, until we reach 10pm. Again this is evidence of the role smartphones play as a researching device early in the morning and later into the evening.

Without cross-device tracking in place, the role of influencing traffic would have gone largely unnoticed and almost certainly unrewarded.

Smartphones as an influencer

Impact on Average Order Values

With only a single device view, as well as seeing poorer conversion rates for smartphones (ignoring their early funnel influence and the role they play in customer journeys), we assumed that average order values were lower.

However, where initial research is carried out on a smartphone, AOV is considerably higher than when smartphones convert multi device sales. Again, a single device view negates the real influence smartphones have on transactions.

Smartphone AOV when initiating versus converting

Publisher Type Trends
Our cross-device data has also enabled us to understand the publisher types, and indeed individual publishers that had previously been missing out on sales they had driven where consumers were purchasing across multiple devices.

The chart below considers the makeup of a major advertiser with cross-device tracking enabled. It looks at the share of sales by promotional type that are single device versus. those that are cross-device.

Again this ties back to the role of each device and the value of affiliates as influencers. For example, content sites have a 15% increase in cross-device sales where compared to those that are single device. If we consider that content affiliates are likely to be more prevalent within the research phase of customer journeys and typically have a significant share of their traffic through smartphones, it highlights how much of their influence would go unrecognised without a cross-device tracking solution in place.

We also see publishers that rely on social media traffic also drive significantly more cross-device sales when compared to single device activity. This is not surprising when we consider the vast majority of social traffic is mobile. When coupled with the fact that influencers will typically have large social following, it makes sense they are involved earlier in the path to conversion and are responsible for influencing more cross-device transactions than they convert.

Conversely, we see cashback sites drive significantly more single device sales than cross-device. With cashback sites primed to convert, this conversion typically takes place on the singular device the member used to first visit the site.

Cross-device tracking benefits the content sites that advertisers are keen to add to their programmes. It also ensures these publishers are being fairly rewarded for their influence and makes affiliate marketing a viable model for them.

Impact of cross-device tracking

Customer journeys are no longer linear, they take in a number of channels and also span across multiple devices. For advertisers to truly understand the influence of their publishers, the ability to track across device is vital.

Cross-device tracking should now be seen as a tracking standard across the industry. Just as we strived to ensure that mobile tracking was added to advertisers’ sites as standard a few years ago, we are leading the charge to ensure cross-device tracking is no longer merely an afterthought.

The insights this provides into customer journeys is invaluable and ensures that advertisers are able to make informed decisions based on the data available to them. Without an effective cross-device tracking solution in place, devices and indeed publishers’ value as influencers will continue to go largely unrecognised and ultimately unrewarded.

Key takeaways
• Smartphones are an important initiating device
• Understanding the role smartphones play in a multi-device age is important
• Tracking between devices gives a clearer assessment of how consumers switch between them
• Customer journeys take longer when considering multiple devices
• Smartphones play different roles at different times of the day
• Average order values, when smartphone contribution is considered, are higher than previously recorded
• Certain affiliate types benefit more from tracking between devices
• Content, price comparison, social media and voucher code sites all over-index