More Bang for Your Mobile Ad Buck

Today’s technology allows people to consume media on demand, providing a great opportunity for advertisers. However, even though mobile ad spending is predicted to increase in 2015, much of the raw data available today isn’t reflective of the true value of mobile advertisements. When it comes to tracking conversions and proper attribution, the data says that mobile lags behind.

So why the attribution and conversion gap? If people are spending so much time on their devices, why does the data still show desktops are where the purchases are?

To understand this, you have to get in the mindset of the average mobile user. For many people, going online via their phone or tablet is a way for them to go into “browse mode.” This type of consumer behavior is usually passive, with the emphasis on reading, messaging, watching, etc. A person might see an ad in their Facebook feed that interests them, and even click on it, but they are much less likely to make the active decision to purchase a product than they would be if they were on their desktop.

However, looking at mobile advertising as “awareness-only” misrepresents the value that the platform offers. After all, it’s not as though mobile interactions are a one-way street. In fact, people are actually more likely to research products or services that they are interested in on their mobile devices. This makes sense when you consider how easy it is to access information from your phone as opposed to going over to your computer, booting it up, and then opening your browser. When it comes time to actually make a purchase, though, they will wait until they are in front of their desktop for that feeling of security, the keyboard, or any number of other behavioral reasons.

This causes a unique problem for advertisers. Mobile Web and app browsing is becoming a major part of the daily life of consumers, but it’s difficult to justify allocating a significant chunk of your budget to mobile when the conversion data doesn’t “pay off.”

The solution lies in cross-device targeting and attribution.

Say, for example, that a person is browsing the Web on their smartphone while waiting for a bus; they see a targeted ad for a pair of dress shoes. Once they get on the bus, they then click on the ad to find out how much the shoes are and what kind of deals they could potentially get. Later, they finally get home, grab their laptop, take out their credit card, and buy the shoes. If you don’t have the ability to identify that person across devices, your data will say that someone clicked on a mobile ad, and then someone made a purchase from their desktop later on. Maybe they were the same person, maybe not – you have no reason to believe it’s the former, even though that’s the truth.

As it stands now, there are two paths to identify someone across devices: deterministic and probabilistic. Deterministic device matching relies on personally identifiable information made available through login systems such as Facebook. Probabilistic device matching, which is what many organizations today use, utilizes algorithms to predict that certain devices belong to the same person. The problem with this approach is that it is basically a “best guess” and its accuracy can’t really be confirmed. In contrast to this, the deterministic approach not only provides up to 95 percent accuracy, as long as the user is logged in, advertisers can see exactly who that person is and what they are interacting with.

If you can distinguish a specific customer across mobile, desktop, and beyond, not only will you be able to demonstrate the real value of your mobile advertisements, but you can also provide that customer with a more fluid and personal advertising experience. This can lead to a budget that is better utilized to hit your KPIs and that personalized experience has the potential to increase customer loyalty as well. After all, providing a consistent advertising experience that spans from mobile device to desktop tells consumers that you’re suggesting something you believe they would personally enjoy, as opposed to just trying to sell them something arbitrary.

There’s no doubt that mobile devices are becoming a bigger part of the average consumer’s life, and that the future of marketing is on those small touchscreens (with wearables as the next frontier, too). But making the business case means getting the data and the context to go along with the logic.

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