Solving the Cross-Device Problem

By Erik Johnson, Head of Atlas |

multiple devicesRemember when “personal computing” simply meant owning a laptop or desktop? For more than a decade, PC users committed to one or the other without ever expecting the two worlds to overlap.

That changed with the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. Its popularity not only made mobile accessible to modern consumers – it made it a necessity for audiences and content providers alike.

Once the concept took hold there was no going back: first the smartphone boom, then the tablet trend. Now, five years later, wearable devices like Apple’s watch reinforce mobile’s supremacy while pointing the way to the future.

Mobile’s convenience is wonderful for audiences, but it creates a problem for marketers trying to advertise across devices. That dilemma must be solved for digital advertising to truly gain a foothold in the 21st century.

shopping multiple devices

Right now, in the US and UK, about 60% of consumers use two or more devices daily, and nearly 25% use three or more.1 More than 40% of US and UK purchasers start by browsing products on one device before completing the transaction on another.1 In the US, Audiences are averaging 3 hours on mobile each day – their total time spent online just five years ago.2 2015 marks a key year in the transition to mobile ubiquity; we’ve passed the tipping point and there’s no going back.

Funny thing about tipping points, though: they arrive without warning and don’t wait for you to catch up. Worldwide, we know that mobile currently makes up 25% of Internet use, growing by the day.2 So why aren’t media budgets tracking with the marketplace?

Heavy reliance on outdated technology is holding marketers back. Most companies today build their campaigns around cookies, first utilized on the web back in 1995. You don’t need a crystal ball to tell you technology that’s been used for 20 years has only a short window left.

2015 may well be remembered as the year cookies crumbled. Cookies can’t measure the effectiveness of ads across separate devices. That weakness can create a daisy chain of bad data, where the activity of one user who owns three devices reads as three different consumers. It’s incredibly challenging to connect behavior on mobile to PC, or tie offline purchases back to online experiences.

The problem will only grow as adoption expands. Within five years consumers may be using 10 or more devices each day3 – from smart-home technology that synchronizes window blinds to your sleep cycle, to navigation technology that helps your car find the fastest route without being asked.

Just like today, where people expect their digital ecosystem to follow them from computer to phone to tablet, audiences in 2020 will expect seamless integration among every device they use. Our industry can’t keep up with audience demands unless we tell our stories the same way.

This is a people-based problem. Instead of treating audiences like individuals, we’ve been treating them as the sum of their browsing habits. It’s an approach that dilutes their experience as much as it impacts our business. Fortunately, people are not only at the center of the problem – they’re also the solution.

The answer is people-based marketing: reaching out to real individuals across devices, platforms and publishers so you can tell consistent stories that yield consistent results. With Atlas, we’ve built a toolkit that helps you connect with your audience like never before.

Atlas works with Facebook to directly measure your audience’s brand engagement, interests, purchases and more – giving you real data based on real people, not cookies. This approach yields unprecedented measurement on mobile, and can even connect offline sales to digital marketing. And Atlas’ advanced tools like sequential messaging, people-based targeting and multi-touch attribution uncover the behaviors and decisions that drive your business results.

Soon we’ll live in a multi-screen world where marketing is ubiquitous, offering more opportunities for content – and more challenges – than ever before. Your advertising should be as sophisticated and relevant as your audience expects from the content they see online every day. When you deliver an experience that matters, you’re no longer shouting into the digital void – you’re creating a conversation. People-based advertising and measurement are the keys to reaching your audience in 2015, 2020 and beyond.

1 GfK ”Multi-device usage study” commissioned by Facebook, Nov-Dec 2013; US & UK; n=~2000
2 eMarketer, Sep 2014
3 Michael Dell, Marketplace Interview, Mar 2013