What Google’s New Cross-Platform Conversions Mean for Online Retailers

November 26, 2015 by Leah Na'aman

Have you ever found yourself researching products on your mobile phone, only to return home and buy the product online? Yeah, us too and it’s known as cross-platform conversions.

90% of people move between various devices to make a purchase or accomplish a goal. Known as ‘micro-moments,’ there are small instances during every day where consumers research or tune in to a particular product through their mobile phone or tablet, making the sales funnel more complicated and a little harder to track.

Tracking cross-platform conversions is a big priority for advertisers, marketers and online retailers as they try to grasp the user journey from brand discovery to purchase, but it has been difficult to achieve due in large part to the fact users are often not signed in.

However, Google’s latest developments mark a turning point and a chance for online retailers to really understand the modern sales funnel.

First of all, what does ‘cross-platform conversions’ actually mean? 

If a visitor comes to your site after clicking an ad on their smart phone and fails to convert at that time, BUT returns to your site on their desktop later on to make a purchase, this is a cross-device conversion. It could also be the case that they visit the store in person, but later make the actual purchase online.

How are multi-/cross-platform conversions calculated? 

While they can’t really track footfall in physical stores, Google has managed to develop an algorithm to calculate cross-platform conversions when it comes to ads.

After collecting large quantities of anonymous data from users who have signed in to Google services, Google built an algorithm to determine cross-platform usage based on a series of signals, like geography, conversion type, landing page, date, etc, for traffic from users who aren’t signed in.

Advertisers and marketers aren’t completely confident in the accuracy of this conversion data, as they it is ‘estimated’ rather than based on exact numbers; however Google themselves are very confident in the system they have developed.

Speaking about their algorithm, Jerry Dischler, Google’s VP of Product, says: “We take very large user populations and then take very conservative forecasts. If you don’t like the word ‘estimated,’ you can ignore the data, you can test it out, or you can accept it 100%. We think it’s safe to accept the data 100%.”

Where are Google using this new conversion data? 

Over the last two years, Google has been testing their system out in AdWords, attempting to accurately estimate cross-platform conversions based on their advertising system – and it seems to have worked.

By applying the cross-platform figures Google generate, marketers have been better able to understand the user journey; in fact, online retailers in the US reported seeing a 16% increase in conversions after utilising this data. The success among AdWords users meant Google brought this newcross-platform conversions service to DoubleClick earlier this year.

“Marketers can measure conversions that start as a click on one device and end with a conversion on another for all their campaigns across the web, not just with the ads they buy from Google,” says DoubleClick.

Speaking about this new development, John Gray, SVP of Platforms & Partnerships at Team Detroit, says: “This is essential insight for marketers. It not only allows us to achieve our clients’ goals more efficiently, but helps us better understand the consumer journey, and reach them with the right messages as they take that path. In our early cross-device measurement tests, we’re already seeing a material increase in conversions attributable to mobile, and making changes as a result.”

What does it mean for retailers?

At the end of October, Google announced that cross-device conversions would begin rolling out at keyword-level in Search, Display and Shopping. For online retailers, this means:

  • Advertises can optimise their big strategies using data from cross-device conversions and assessing the cost-per-acquisition (CPA) across all platforms.
  • Marketers can now use these figures to identify trends among consumers and apply this knowledge to their own marketing strategies.
  • This move signals significant development and resources to be pumped into the mobile advertising industry. Not only will this mean a better understanding of how consumers use mobile devices, it also means companies like Google will work on developing new systems to make the implementation of cross-device campaigns easier for advertisers





Ravit Sasson