The Dilemma of Multiple Devices

People have never had so many ways to connect with companies. But at the same time as companies are betting big on new technologies, it is becoming more difficult to tell whether they are even worthwhile.

Today, an average person could interact with a company using their home computer, their work computer, their phone, their tablet—even their TV. They can access a company's website, mobile app, social sites or smart TV app.

Making sense of this is not as simple as buying a new tool for analysis or developing the right statistical model. It requires a fundamental shift in thinking.

New Metrics

For starters, the most comfortable and worn metrics stop meaning what they used to. Some metrics become altogether meaningless. Some have to be rethought. Perhaps dashboards stop being meaningful.

What is a "visitor"?

If a single person uses multiple devices to access the same site, he will be recorded as multiple visitors. This problem isn't new, but it does take on new urgency in this changing world. Visit frequency, life-time value, all kinds of other metrics suddenly don't make any sense. Companies need to develop a holistic approach for measuring their channels and how visitors access them.

Conversion Attribution

With so many touchpoints and no clear connection between them, it's impossible to determine which channel influenced a customer to purchase and to what degree. (Understanding what the purpose of each channel is and whether it's doing its job is a related problem that many companies don't address.)

We may shortly find that all of the industry debate about multi-point conversion attribution is arguing the wrong point entirely. What we may really need to understand is how many devices our average site visitor uses and in what order. Far from closing the loop on conversion, advances in technology may widen the gap.

Device Type

As more types of devices become Internet-capable and advanced, differentiating between a person visiting from a computer vs. a phone, tablet or TV becomes more difficult. Yet, understanding the differences becomes even more important because the user's experience and expectations are so divergent. Windows 8's emphasis on touch makes this issue even more muddled.

What is a visit?

Even the idea of a time-bound visit carries less relevance when it becomes more common for a person to interact briefly with a company while waiting for a bus, or for them to decide to put down their phone and pull up a company website on their laptop instead. Suddenly things like persistence and transitions become very relevant, but they aren't traditionally tracked. How important is average time on site if visitors are accessing your content during short waits and no amount of engaging content will keep them longer than a specified time? How do we measure success in this new environment?

New Behaviors

Emerging technologies are changing how people interact faster than companies can figure out how to quantify and evaluate those interactions. The technologies themselves change society's expectations. This means that a strategy for measuring a new technology can't be static either.

Public browsing

Marketers are used to doing things that will unconsciously make a consumer feel more inclined to purchase their product. They will play with different colors or calls to action. But, technologies like web-enabled TVs will be used differently than phones or computers if for no other reason than because they are so visible. Cultural norms and peer pressure will make every browsing decision more conscious. Groups will have different goals. They will be less likely to make a purchase, for example, unless it involves the whole group. Pages will need to be optimized for groups instead of individuals. And that means a different approach to design and different ideas about measuring success.

Further, people are more likely to browse a site or use an app as a group (creating more confusion around "visitor" metrics), but analysts will never be able to tell when. Even an authenticated user might influence the opinion of somebody else in the room, who will then make a purchase. That activity will be impossible to track.

Private browsing

Companies are used to thinking about browsing on mobile devices as being different because it happens with a smaller screen and on the go, but they haven't quantified how people's behavior changes when they have the privacy of a phone. In some settings, somebody on a mobile device might be even more secluded from social norms, and in others they may find themselves more conscious of people looking over their shoulders. In either case, the way they browse changes in unquantified ways.

The exciting thing about this industry is that nobody has determined "the best way" to measure online activity. The debate over what to measure and how to interpret it has yet to reach maturity. The emergence of Google TV will keep good web analysts on their toes and add a new wrinkle to the debate.

1 comment:

  1. The word "visitor" is a horrible, nasty, misleading word and it's use should be banned in favour of "cookie drop".