Smartphones can support impulsive purchasing – browsing a retailer’s website while waiting in a supermarket queue and clicking 'buy now', for instance.

Meanwhile, the widespread use of tablets as second screens presents the opportunity to make purchases, perhaps in response to advertisements, from the comfort of your sofa.

Digital window-shopping, or showrooming, is common among smartphone users and often leads consumers into physical stores to try on or test products, or to making online purchases from another device at another time.

Recent research by TNS suggests that more than three quarters of consumers have made a purchase online; even more will have at least researched products online.

Where once this would almost certainly have been on a desktop computer, the increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets makes mapping the online shopping journey more complex than ever.

Tracking customer interactions across devices is essential as a means of identifying pressure points and devising strategies to counteract them, but many brands are still relying on measurements that are too limiting in the era of the smartphone. 

Device Drop

In fact, research by eBay Inc. found that the average consumer will use as many as three to five devices or platforms in the course of making their buying decision and completing a purchase.

This tendency to hop from device to device during the decision-making process greatly increases the risk to retailers that a customer will, intentionally or otherwise, not complete a purchase.

Th research also found that a quarter of online and mobile purchases are made by customers who could not have bought the products locally, with these purchases accounting for €9bn worth of sales in the UK alone in 2012.

A decent mobile experience is vital to prevent purchase abandonment

Customers purchasing high-value items are also more likely to shop across various devices, with 63% doing so when buying products for €100 or more.

The key question for brands is, then, how to stop customers dropping out of the purchasing process as they move from one device to another.

Failure to do so could prove costly in terms of missed sales of big-ticket items.

Reasons for switching devices might include a complicated, unreliable, or unsatisfying user experience on the mobile device – perhaps because the website is not optimised for viewing on the smaller screen size.

Many consumers may hold off from making purchases on a mobile device because of concerns about the reliability of their internet connection and the associated risks of not completing the transaction or being charged multiple times.

It may, of course, simply be that they were only browsing, and will make a final purchasing decision later. 

A key reason for consumers dropping out of the purchasing process altogether when switching devices – aside from the obvious possibility that they just haven’t found what they are looking for – is the lack of a powerful enough prompt or trigger when they pick up another device.

If the change in device is not immediate, it is easy to forget about the item you were looking at.

Mapping the full customer journey

If digital marketers are to maintain customer engagement across different devices, they need to build a holistic view of the customer journey. This is essential to enable them to identify and address any particularly problematic transitions.

Are more consumers lost, for instance, when switching from smartphone to PC, or vice versa?

Accurate attribution of customer engagement – including the ability to track interactions by the same customer across a variety of devices – is vital.

Attribution data can provide brands with deeper insights into cross-device purchasing paths and the effectiveness of activity at each customer touchpoint.

B&Q promotes its digital services in-store. But can it track users across channels?

'Last click' – the traditional measure of marketing channel performance and customer engagement – is outdated and flawed, providing only a snapshot of the final step on the customer’s journey. 

This is of limited use given the device diversity now in play.

Advanced attribution, on the other hand, enables marketers to take a comprehensive and granular view of the conversion process.

Aggregating and analysing data on a consumer’s interactions across various channels not only improves understanding of the role that each channel plays in influencing their decision, but also provides valuable information as to the relative impact and ROI of specific channels.

Building better customer profiles

This data can be used to minimise device drop as part of a multi-layered approach to linking customer behaviours and building profiles across devices.

Customer keys, profile IDs, and probabilistic 'non-cookie' techniques can be used to map users to devices and sessions.

Pattern analysis then enables marketers to detect potential 'hot spots' for losing customers. By tracking what devices people are using when, and how they switch between them, it becomes easier to target the kind of prompts – promotional emails, for example – that help customers complete purchases.

These insights can also make marketing campaigns more effective and cost-efficient.

Armed with accurate, real-time information about how customers interact with them across their various channels, brands can target digital marketing campaigns at the relevant devices and platforms, as well as allocating budget more effectively.

The data can also be used to generate forecasts against which actual activity can be measured to dynamically adjust budget and campaign targeting.

Smartphone and tablet penetration among consumers continues at a prodigious rate – technology industry analysis firm Gartner predicts that there will be 7.3bn PCs and connected mobile devices by 2020.

As ecommerce platforms become increasingly sophisticated, connectivity improves, and consumers become more and more comfortable with making purchases using mobile devices, brands will need to employ intelligent analysis to maximise returns on their marketing spend.

Sebastian Gutierrez

Published 6 August, 2014 by Sebastian Gutierrez

Sebastian Gutierrez is eBay Enterprise Senior Product & Partnerships Manager  and is a mentor for online start-ups at Wayra. Find him on TwitterGoogle+ and LinkedIn.  

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Comments (8)

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Joe Sherman

Joe Sherman, Inbound Marketing Manager at StitcherAds

Hi Sebastian,

Thanks for that insightful post. Really interesting and I completely agree that companies must build a holistic view of the customer journey.

What sort of tools would you suggest for this sort of tracking?


Joe Sherman,


about 4 years ago


Sean Burton

Tracking across the journey and touch points still remains the central challenge for most companies.

Data integration across the touch points is crucial to allow a holistic view, but should go hand-in-hand with user transparency.

Give your users the benefit of a integrated experience across your channels by allowing them to sign-in easily and consistently. This will give you a consistent user id across all of your channels which will allow integrated reporting - the key here is user transparency.

Respect your users right to not be tracked, but showcase the benefits of logging in.

Many web analytics tools are now allowing this type of integration: Google Analytics Universal tagging, Adobe Insight, etc.

The technology is no longer the barrier, but rather poor user experience and badly thought out data strategies.

about 4 years ago

Sebastian Gutierrez

Sebastian Gutierrez, Senior Product Manager at eBay Enterprise

Hi Joe, advanced attribution is the way that companies can build a holistic view of the customer journey.

about 4 years ago

Joe Sherman

Joe Sherman, Inbound Marketing Manager at StitcherAds

Sean & Sebastian, thank you for your comments. Very helpful.

about 4 years ago


Matt Lovell, Head of Customer Data, Insight & Analytics at Eurostar International Ltd.

While Sean and Sebastian are right about it being easier I still think it completely depends on the brand / category that a company sits in as to how easily you are going to be able to capture a user ID.

Ultimately a lot of users simply aren't willing to hand over anything remotely personally identifiable unless they're at the point of purchase so unless you do down the route of the likes of Secret Escapes (you have to log in to view any of our deals but they're good enough to make you want to) or something simpler like Dominos or Pizza Hut (A postcode is sufficiently close to an ID to at least give us something to work on) then you're going to be hard pressed to identify a substantial amount of the traffic on your site.

about 4 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Identification rate and anonymous tracking are crucial here, because you can only follow customers across multiple devices if you've identified them on those devices.

If you have e.g. 50% identification, the chance of following a customer across two devices is 40% x 40% = 16%. If you have 80% identification the chance is 80% x 80% = 64%. Twice the rate on a single device gives gives 4 times the identification across two devices. And across 5 devices it's 32 times.

This means it's not enough to choose a solution that requires customers to login before they are tracked. You need:

(1) anonymous tracking, so you store customer history pre-login and merge it into their main history when they are recognized

(2) email-to-web, so that when a customer clicks on a link in your marketing emails and arrives at your Website, they are instantly recognized.

(3) first party cookies - not third party as some solutions use - so your cookies are allowed by default on mobile and you can recognize returning visitors.

(4) integration with pop-up forms

(5) and finally login at the checkout.

about 4 years ago


Matt Lovell, Head of Customer Data, Insight & Analytics at Eurostar International Ltd.


I love that you've basically just written (in a potentially more eloquent way than I did!) exactly what I submitted to our exec a while back in terms of where we're trying to get to with all of our sites.

With most we're covering off at least 2/3 of these but until we can get to having as many in place as possible (plus some other tweaks we have planned for the coming months to help us gain access to customer data), we're still some way from understanding the majority of our customers...

about 4 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance


You're too kind! Hope you get agreement on your proposal.

Seeing as someone liked it, I turned the comment into a blog post:

about 4 years ago

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