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What You Need to Know about Cross-Device Behavior in AdWords

Published: November 22, 2013

Author: Joe Kerschbaum

Google’s introduction of cross-device conversion tracking last month was a clear signal that more and more digital marketers are being encouraged to factor mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) into their campaigns. Google’s tracking is meant to illustrate the influence that multiple touches on different devices have on online purchases; for instance, a consumer might look up a product on his or her smartphone, click the ad, leave without purchasing, and visit the brand page directly on his or her desktop the next day to record a transaction.
What we’ve found in studying data for a range of clients since the tracking was announced is that the metric is more of a signal than a core optimization metric. It can suggest to marketers the influence of mobile on their campaigns – and which types of ads might lend themselves to mobile interaction.
Brand vs. Non-Brand Campaigns
Upon analyzing multiple high-volume campaigns, we found that brand and non-brand campaigns have similar cross-device behavior. Both of the following percentages refer to the total number of estimated conversions within AdWords. On average, brand campaigns saw approximately 6% cross-device activity on average and non-brand campaigns saw approximately 5% of the same behavior.
Brand vs Non-Brand
PLA Campaigns Across Devices
Many clients utilizing Product Listing Ads (PLA) haven’t seen too much cross-device influence, but I believe this will grow over time. We had a couple of clients that are starting to see this kind of influence with very positive results. As you can see below for one client, approximately 7.25% of our estimated PLA conversions were attributed to cross-device.
PLA Cross-Device
Right now, PLAs are not a huge player (expect for a few clients) in the cross-device space. However, PLAs will expand their influence as Google devotes more mobile SERP real estate to this ad type. For those in eCommerce, keep an eye on developments in this space.
Lead Generation vs. eCommerce
It makes sense that eCommerce clients are seeing more cross-device audience migration. Most of our lead generation clients strive to make their conversion process super-simple. Our goal with lead-based clients is to get the conversion instantly. Keep the mobile visitor focused with a short, easy-to-complete mobile-optimized landing page.
The available statistics display evidence that many people are still not comfortable making purchases via their mobile device. These folks feel very comfortable doing research on their phone, but purchases are completed via a PC.
Cross-device conv.
One Client Comparison
Just to pull it all together, I looked a one large-scale client to see how each campaign type was performing. Their cross-device patterns were similar to the average across other clients. Brand had the most significant movement between devices, with PLAs being the least (for now, until Google gives them more importance on the mobile SERPs – which is probably going to happen).
Client Campaigns
Limitations of this Analysis
This data is insightful, as I stated in the first paragraph, and as these statistics mature they will get even more important. I think advertisers should review this data to get an initial impression of their audience’s behavior across devices. But there numerous limitations to this data:

-Data gathering: There are still gaping holes as to how Google attributes this data to specific accounts. Many individuals are not using the same Google account across devices, which can certainly limit the usefulness of this data.
-Device migration paths: Right now, AdWords tells us that a certain percentage of total estimated conversions occurred when users utilized multiple devices on their path to conversion. That is super-awesome. However, we also lacking device path behavior (on which device did someone start and where did they finish?). Sure, common sense says that most cross-device conversions probably followed the mobile-to-PC path, but let’s not just assume.
-Action orientated data: Once we’ve determined some of this data, what exactly do we do with it? As started earlier, we see this as more of a signal right now. These reports aren’t exactly telling us that we need to increase or decrease our mobile bid modifiers any specific amount. For some clients that were dragging in mobile performance, we may not throw in the towel just yet. And for those clients who are rocking mobile, this may just solidify their love of these devices.

If you see a healthy amount of cross-device influence, you may want to devote additional spend to mobile. Also, you may want to think about how you can make mobile devices a closing channel rather than just an introducer or an influencer. In other words, how do you get people to action NOW – you may be losing potential customers in that device gap.
In Summary
Utilize these reports as a signal to your audience’s behavior. There are still too many holes to form significant tactic decisions based on this data. However, this doesn’t discourage me at all. Folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cross-device analysis and optimize. The future is upon us… it’s not quite here yet, but it’s getting closer every day… and that is awesome.

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