Mobile devices have changed our lifestyles, and the way businesses operate, but it goes beyond simply being more connected. Sure, our smartphones are usually the first thing most of us reach for when opening our eyes in the morning. We check for urgent emails, messages, and news, but what we do after that is equally important. After we put our mobile devices down and start our day, our lives begin to take different journeys throughout the day. And it’s along these journeys that lots of different data points are created. 

So, the role of the mobile device goes beyond connecting people to each other and providing information at the click of a button — it also allows people, using different platforms and media, to interact with the brands they love. More importantly, our mobile devices enable the information collected along the journey to be used by marketers and business owners to provide a better service for their customers. 

This is just one part of how the customer journey has evolved over the last 10-15 years. Before the smartphone, people would become aware of a product or service, consider it, ask friends for their opinions, and then make a purchase. This was easy to chart, and the only notable variable was the timeframe, which ranged from minutes or days to weeks or months, usually depending on the size of the transaction. 

Today, the notion of the four phases still exists, but the journey is no longer a linear, easy-to-follow path. Now, people jump in and out of the purchase funnel at different stages. The number of different platforms involved, as well as the variety of media involved, has also increased. 

Before the advancement of the mobile web, consumers made discoveries and finalized purchases on the same device – typically their desktop computers. This often isn’t the case today, and such behavior poses added challenges. Consumers no longer stick with one format for their information, often dipping in and out of different media and platforms.  

Marketers today need to pull together a cohesive story and tell customers who they are, why their products are needed, what their benefits are, how their peers are using the products, and how they can use or purchase that product. All of this must happen in some form on some medium for the journey to complete. 

Adding to challenging consumer browsing behavior is the host of privacy legislation in place or looming —  like GDPR and CCPA — and changes that have resulted from businesses taking user privacy more seriously — such as the recent introduction of tracking changes on iOS 14.5 as well as the pending blocking of third-party cookies by default on Google Chrome. As marketers, your ability to track your customers will be even more limited.  

Strategies for better cross-platform marketing

Despite the challenge, there are ways you can prepare to ensure better cross-platform marketing: 

  1. Enhance tracking — Google Analytics alone isn’t enough. You need to implement server side tracking otherwise you will find your costs rising and audience sizes shrinking 
  2. Invest in cross-platform campaign management — Don’t rely on Facebook or Google individually for acquisition. You need to ensure your marketing and business growth plans work across platforms, just like your customers do. There will be lots of different permutations for different businesses but you need to make sure you’re getting the right mix for your business by building your own system 
  3. Build up first-party data — Don’t just rely on basic targeting via Facebook, Google Ads, or Programmatic networks. You need to acquire more data directly from your customers (first-party data) and reach known and related audiences 
  4. Upgrade your attribution modeling — I would recommend doing this to get a view on real cost per acquisition and translate what that means for your business. It will show where you should invest more money and where you should save. Doing this manually is fine if you have dedicated resources but if not, invest in the necessary tools. 

Although the evolving privacy landscape is a challenge, the tech giants that should be leading by example — Apple, Google, and Facebook — are incredibly fragmented with their approach. At some points, they even make it difficult for themselves, so a consolidation to make our lives easier is highly unlikely. Technology providers and ad networks may work together to provide solutions but we can't wait/hope for this. Act now! You will thank yourself in the months to come.