Cross-Device Tracking and Targeting with Advanced Data Enhancement for Retail Customers

February 3, 2017CCG Retail Marketing Blog

Improve your marketing campaign performance

Discover three cross-device tracking tactics — and how to use the resulting data to target retail customers and improve your marketing campaign performance.

Retail marketers have long relied on customer data and analytics to build knowledge and engagement — ultimately, to be there at the right time, with the right message. Today, we have more communication channels than anyone dreamed possible. And the amount of available data, much of it digitally based and occurring across multiple devices, has grown exponentially. Meanwhile, the challenges of capturing it, connecting it and using it have likewise increased. Advanced data enhancement tactics that leverage cross-device tracking can help you manage and make the most of this data abundance to target and engage your retail customers.

The Complexity of Cross-Device Tracking

Tracking customer behavior across devices and touchpoints is the modern Holy Grail of retail marketing. It’s not uncommon for a single transaction to take a long and winding digital pathway: A customer sees your email on a mobile phone over breakfast, browses your products on her desktop at work and then makes a purchase at home from her laptop or tablet.

Following this journey via cross-device attribution — understanding how your customers are using online channels, plus where you can find your customers on the aptly named web — is the only way today to build a full profile of that customer to help you make better marketing decisions. And it’s something you can’t really do with traditional analytics tracking.

Three Cross-Device Tracking Tactics to Connect the Dots

That’s where cross-device tracking comes into play. Currently, there are three primary methods retail marketers are using to connect customer experience and behavior across multiple digital devices.

1. User authentication – A user-specific identifier, such as log-in information or a customer ID, tracks the customer, regardless of which device she’s on. Tracking analytics let you see what the customer is doing and on which devices. Because the identifier is directly linked to an individual, the information is considered highly accurate. But you can only track existing customers or registered users, not newcomers who don’t yet have an account.

2. Walled gardens – This term defines a third-party network — think Facebook, Google, AOL — that can track consumer behavior within its own environment, regardless of what device a person uses. Similar to user authentication, these systems are based on following a customer’s user ID for that network across devices. Some networks can even track the customer from the network’s own web pages to yours. While the potential customer universe is broader, it’s still limited to people who have accounts with that network. In addition, you have limited access to the data and can’t typically port the information outside of the network’s environment — thus the name “walled garden.”

3. Device fingerprinting – This cross-device tracking tactic was originally developed to track web users without using cookies. It’s a less-personalized but more scalable method compared to the first two. Basically, it leverages attributes such as device settings, IP addresses, browsing behavior and more to develop an anonymous but unique user identifier. Used in conjunction with a customer data management platform, it may help provide information about consumer behavior across devices.

Cross-Device Targeting: Putting Digital, Cross-Device Data to Work

For many retail marketers, the solution for understanding customers’ digital behavior lies not with one method, but in combining them so that the strengths of one can bolster the weaknesses of another. Regardless of which you choose, you can leverage these advanced data enhancements in many ways, including:

  • Developing more complete profiles of your retail customers by tying cross-device digital behavior details into your existing customer information.
  • Analyzing cross-channel behavior — how customers interact with various digital channels.
  • Testing your marketing approaches both within a specific channel and from one channel to the next.
  • With the right tools, analyzing and reviewing information in real time rather than via batch reporting.
  • Using the information for a cross-device retargeting (a.k.a., remarketing) campaign.

Improving Relevance with Cross-Device Retargeting

You undoubtedly know what retargeting is — where, for instance, you research televisions at BestBuy.com and suddenly everywhere you go online, there are ads for televisions at Best Buy. It’s a marketer’s dream come true — to know what the consumer is shopping for, and then be able to feed highly relevant messaging to that person outside of the store’s own environment. And it’s all based on being able to identify the individual across their digital devices. Once you can do that, it’s a question of working with a retargeting service and winning bids to get your ads to appear on other web pages the person visits — from smartphone, to tablet to desktop.

Retargeting is considered a particularly effective tactic to bring back “bounced” website traffic, entice people with shopping cart abandons and re-engage previous customers who haven’t visited your site or made a purchase recently.

Some retailers are effectively using retargeting to complement Facebook Ads and email marketing. Others are combining the tactic with off-line customer information, as well. For instance, serving online ads to your print-catalog mailing list, or to customers who’ve made purchases in-store or over the phone.

There is one important key to doing cross-device retargeting right: segmentation. For instance, Best Buy wouldn’t want to serve that television ad to someone who had been looking at computers or cameras. They’d want product-specific ads. And that’s what you’ll want, too.

Similarly, you may consider creating an ad version for customers who haven’t connected in 30 days and another for those who’ve visited your site in the past week. And for people who’ve recently purchased, you might send out cross-sell or upsell messages — or you could use your ad space to request referrals and reviews, follow up on the purchase, or encourage loyalty program enrollment.

End Goal: Improved Retail Marketing Performance

Whether you’re ready to embark on a cross-device retargeting campaign or simply want to get a more complete view of your modern, multi-channel, digital-centric customer, advanced data analytics tools and tactics, like cross-device tracking, can help. Ultimately, they can move you yet closer to the end goal of being as relevant as possible —translating to engagement, sales and profits.


What do you need? Basic or advanced data analytics. Retargeting, email or traditional direct mail. Customer loyalty programs or plain old customer relationship building. Whatever your gap, and wherever you are on your CRM and loyalty journey, we’re here for you. Email or call us at 800.525.0313 today to see how our 30+ years of retail marketing expertise can work to your advantage.