Know and Reach Your Audience Better Across Their Many Devices

by James Hollyday

posted on 12-03-2018

Considering the average number of connected devices per person in North America was 7.8 in 2016, and is projected to reach 13 by 2021, for companies to count and analyze customers and prospects on 1/13th of their devices is akin to reading one page out of every 13 pages of a book.

To deal with this complexity, chief marketing officers of all major brands today are leaning toward cross-device targeting — so much so that cross-device has become one of the biggest buzzwords in the digital marketing ecosystem.

What does cross-device really mean?

Cross-device alludes to the practice of identifying, analyzing, and reaching people, and not just disparate devices. It means speaking to users on all of their various digital machines — from desktops, to laptops, to mobile phones, and even connected TVs. To accurately grow or retain your user base, analyze their digital behavior, and present them with the best possible user experience, a cross-device approach is essential.

Demystifying cross-device targeting and Profile Merge Rules

Now that we know why cross-device is important, let’s explore why and how to integrate cross-device segmentation into your data management platform strategy to target your audiences better across their many devices.

In Adobe Audience Manager, Adobe’s data management platform, you can accomplish this by using a feature called Profile Merge Rules. Customizing and applying this feature to your audiences allows you to apply cross-device merging to your segments and link all devices that a user base engages on.

Doing it right

There are two methods through which Profile Merge Rules can do this linking.

1. The probabilistic method: This method is informed by algorithms that analyze digital behavior, establish patterns across multiple devices, and tie together the devices into what we call “clusters,” once a sufficient link has been identified. Audience Manager offers multiple methods of external device graphs through partners such as Tapad and LiveRamp, in addition to Adobe’s Experience Cloud Device Co-op program.

The Device Co-op is a digital cooperative for participating Adobe Experience Cloud customers to work together to better identify their consumers across devices, while ensuring the highest levels of privacy and transparency. Simply put, if devices are linked by authentications of one company, those device links are then shared with the rest of the members to identify the same person across devices. The Profile Merge Rules setting for linking users probabilistically is available in the “device options” settings of Audience Manager Profile Merge Rules.

2. The deterministic method: Like probabilistic method, the deterministic method is not an algorithmically informed guesswork, but a known link. Audience Manager can link a single user’s many different devices through one or the other kind of authentication event. This could be as simple as a login event, typical for verticals such as banking or other businesses with high authentication rates. Once a user logs in via the mobile app on their phone and their home computer, a link is created. For other types of businesses where users don’t frequently log on, it requires being more creative.

Use cases: Many retail businesses rely on an email click as an authentication event. While retail consumers don’t log in to shop often, they may click promotional emails more frequently than that, using their smartphone or their work laptop. When they click and land on a brand’s promotional page, their unique identifier tied to their email address creates a link between their smartphone and the work laptop. This also applies to the B2B space, where prospects don’t often log in to the site for information but may often click emails about events or product releases.

This deterministic method of merging devices is achieved through selecting an “authenticated option” within Audience Manager Profile Merge Rules, in combination with a “Profile Link Device Graph” setting. This essentially means that your segment is using an authenticated ID of some sort (as opposed to probabilistic method of linking), and that the last four devices where this authenticated ID was present will be linked.

Why use Profile Merge Rules to target users?

Creating the link or cluster of users’ digital devices is only the tip of the iceberg. Targeting users across devices through Profile Merge Rules can also help you scale and maximize audience size to increase ROI of your digital marketing programs. Scale can be achieved using Adobe’s Profile Merge Rules through Audience Expansion capability that allows you to expand the size of your audiences. Doing this has many benefits.

Measure your audience accurately before you activate it

If each of your customers has an average of eight devices, and you are only counting one per segment, you simply do not have a good read on the size of your various user segments and their relative growth. Once it is time for a segment to be activated, the real rewards of audience expansion can be reaped.
Use cases: **A retail clothing company wants to reach an audience of users who are marketing to push sales for men’s suits during a wedding season campaign. While Joe, a customer of the retail brand, browses the available suits collection on his iPad, he also owns a phone, a work laptop, and a personal laptop. Since he, at one or another point, has clicked on emails received from this retail company on all four of his owned devices, a link gets deterministically established across all of his four devices, and Joe qualifies for the segment on all four of his devices if you are using Profile Merge Rules with the setting of “Last Authenticated.”If you do not apply Profile Merge Rules to this segment, you’ll miss out on counting the full audience and reaching them across all the touchpoints they engage with your digital content. This example applies not only to retail, but to any vertical or business model. Measuring the effect of the audience size expansion can be simply done by building two duplicate segments — one by leveraging cross-device Profile Merge Rules, and, another, without it.

When we apply this concept at the macro level, the results are even more dramatic. Let’s say, prior to applying Profile Merge Rules, the theoretical segment count of those in the market for suits is 100,000. Now, of these 100,000, you can establish clusters for 30 percent deterministically (a typical authentication rate). Of these 30,000, the average devices per person are three, a typical number we see using Profile Merge Rules. So, now we have an average of three devices merged for 30 percent of the original 100,000. That moves the audience size up by 60 percent — from 100,000 to 160,000.

A 60 percent increase could mean that you have 60 percent more opportunities to get your brand name in front of the right person at the right time, and a 60 percent better chance to influence an in-market shopper, and potentially 60 percent more purchases attributed to your advertising campaign.

Achieve accuracy in segmentation counts

Going back to my earlier example, counting one-eighth of a person’s devices in a segment is like reading one page of every eight pages in a book. This can lead to all kinds of misinterpretations, and may even adversely impact the ROI of your advertising campaigns.One major flaw of not counting cross-device is overcounting. For customers, there is nothing more annoying than receiving an ad for something they have already purchased. With the release of instant cross-device suppression, you can instantly remove someone who has bought a product from your segment — along with all their respective devices.

Use cases: Let’s consider the men’s suit example again. Once Joe has bought something, he can be removed from the segment on his phone, laptop, work laptop, and iPad. Audience Manager Profile Merge Rules can ensure this. Just as the audience is expanded for all devices that the audience uses, the audience segment is also corrected by excluding all of a specific user’s devices from the segment after he has made a purchase. In this case, for instance, all four of Joe’s devices will no longer be counted as members of the in-market suit segment and will no longer be eligible for any retargeting or special offers on the men’s suit website.In a scenario without Profile Merge Rules, a single device would stop receiving suit ads, and all other devices of a user where suits had been browsed could still receive the same ad. This example can apply to all businesses as long as there is an event that can link individuals — whether through a website or mobile app login, or an email click. To read more about the suppression feature, see Ben Beard’s blog on Adobe Profile Merge Rules here.

Selectively merge device activity of a household, or merge activity for an individual alone

What this means is, a marketer can choose to provide the same message to all members of a household, based on the attributes of one or more members of that house. Alternately, you can target each individual with a customized message, derived exclusively from their respective attributes.

Use cases: A telecom company generally has group accounts or family accounts. They may have a separate hashed identifier for the group, in addition to an individual who belongs to the plan. Profile Merge Rules allow you to target the whole group with a message derived from one user’s action, or target only that one person. Let’s say, if one member of the plan is due for an upgrade in phones, the whole family could be reached on their various devices with a message around the upgrade, which might prompt a gift idea. This example can be used for all verticals where there are group accounts and individual accounts.

While cross-device targeting segmentation and profile linking are not new concepts, the execution and measurement of this initiative often falls by the wayside. Adobe Audience Manager’s Profile Merge Rules feature simplifies accurate cross-device segmentation, audience expansion, and suppression. Once the correct authenticated IDs are identified, the process gets as easy as selecting a cross-device rule from Profile Merge Rules to apply to your segment via a drop down, or you can even make that rule default.

Furthermore, Profile Merge Rules in Audience Manager move at the speed of the internet, in real time. This means that all cross-device linking and the subsequent segment qualification (or disqualification) can happen in real time.

To learn more about Profile Merge Rules, read here.

Topics: Digital Transformation, Campaign Management

Products: Audience Manager