Mobile commerce has witnessed staggering growth over the past few years.

We have been monitoring this activity for the past five years and in that time we have seen the share of mobile traffic increase from just 2%, to in excess of 50% of clicks through a tablet or smartphone. 

Although the share of mobile traffic has seen an incredible increase, this is not simply cannibalising the traffic we would have traditionally seen through desktops previously, the vast majority of this is additional traffic.

With increasing connectivity through multiple devices, consumers are always online. Time spent browsing the internet isn’t just limited to destinations where access is available through a desktop/laptop, connecting is possible on the move.

The ramp up of mobile activity is clearly indicative of this trend and presents a clear challenge to advertisers. Customer journeys are becoming increasingly complex spanning not only multiple channels but also multiple devices.

Advertisers need to be able to unravel the mystery of where multiple devices have been interacted with in the path to conversion.

Traditionally through the channel, if a customer journey spanned multiple devices an affiliate would not be rewarded for driving a sale if the device they eventually purchased on was different to the one they had initially used to interact with affiliate advertising.

With accurate and measurable cross device tracking in place it is possible to ensure affiliates are correctly allocated every sale. Cross device tracking also allows advertisers to gain additional insights into customer journeys and the role each device has played within the path to purchase.

For example, have we been misunderstanding the role of smartphones as an influencing device?

We know that we see an increasing share of traffic originating from a smartphone (26% in June) but there is a disconnect between the share of traffic and the share of sales, with just 17% of transactions taking place on a smartphone in June.

While conversions may not be taking place on a smartphone, what is to say that the customer has not converted at a later point on a second device? The image below examines when we see the majority of smartphone traffic that later converts on another device.

The figures at the top show smartphone traffic while the bottom show when conversions take place on smartphones. Early morning and late evening traffic far outstrips the conversions we have seen in a single device view.

This is indicative of browsing traffic on the morning or evening commute with consumers researching potential purchases.

To take the concept of smartphones being an influencing device a step further, the below considers the conversion rate, average order values and earnings per click for a retailer across each device.

We see that desktop converts at a higher rate, customers spend more on average and have a much higher earnings per click than mobile devices but is this data a true reflection of their influence.

Can we really say that desktop traffic is worth five times more than mobile traffic? It is time for advertisers to understand how each device is being used and look at alternative payment models to take into account the role of influence.

We know that smartphones are generating a significant share of traffic but this is converting at a much poorer rate. However we also now know that a significant amount of this traffic is actually converting on another device.

There is a considerable amount of value in the early funnel browsing that is not currently having its influence rewarded effectively.

As well as the insights that cross device tracking provides in terms of each device’s role as an influencer, it also highlights that customer journeys through the affiliate channel may be longer than we had originally thought. 

While cross device tracking is still very much in its infancy, it has led to greater understanding of the customer journeys within the channel.

It is evident that smartphones are influencing a number of sales even if conversion is some way behind other devices. Insights gleaned from cross device tracking can really help advertisers to understand the more complex customer journeys and plan their marketing activity accordingly.