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Web Analytics & Customer Analytics Face Off: Tracking Users Across Multiple Devices

Market Trends - May 16th, 2013 by Natalie Issa.

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Web Analytics Customer Analytics Face OffWeb analytics and customer analytics go head to head on the topic of tracking users across multiple devices. We conclude with a final showdown comparing how the differences between them will be reflected in your reports.

Let the match begin.

In This Corner: Web Analytics

Web analytics relies on cookies to track your visitors. Whenever someone lands on your website, a cookie is stored on their browser to track their activity. However, since cookies are stored on browsers, if someone visits your site from a different browser (e.g. Firefox and then Chrome) or a different device (e.g. laptop and then tablet), there is no way using web analytics for you to know that they were the same visitor. But that’s a rare situation, right?

In This Corner: Customer Analytics

Let’s start with a question: How many devices do you use? According to a 2012 report by Cisco, there will be 1.4 mobile devices per capita by 2016. And that’s just mobile.

As we covered above, web analytics relies on cookies and therefore recognizes each cookie on each browser as a new person. Many of your customers use a work computer, home computer, mobile device, and possibly a tablet on a near daily basis. That means they’re probably also using your website and/or application from a work computer, home computer, mobile device, and possibly a tablet. See the problem?

Not having this reflected in your data creates a lot of noise. That’s why customer analytics uses a unique identifier, like an email address, to identify the same user across multiple devices. Here’s how it works:

      1. Anonymous visitor lands on your website from work computer. They now have a cookie on that device.
      2. Anonymous visitor then signs up on their laptop. They are now identified as Jim Halpert.
      3. Jim Halpert downloads your app on his iPad. His activity on your app is aggregated into Jim’s profile.
      4. Jim visits your website on his work computer and logs in to access his account. All of his previously anonymous activity (from step 1) is now aggregated into Jim’s profile.
      5. Jim visits your website from his laptop, and does not log in. The systems has already associated the cookie with his account and so he is still recognized as Jim Halpert

In a Woopra customer profile it would look something like this:

Track User Across Devices

Notice how the device type, browser, and location are reflected in each visit. We’ve successfully tracked Jim across his work computer, laptop, and iPad, and aggregated all of that activity into a single profile for Jim Halpert. One customer, one lifecycle, one data set.

The Verdict

Now the real question is how is this difference in tracking methods reflected in your analytics reports?

Example 1: Funnel Report

Customers don’t always complete a funnel in the same visit. For example, they may add items to their cart during their first visit on their work computer and then checkout during their second visit on their home laptop.

Web analytics will fail to report this conversion in your funnel because it sees each visit as a different person. Customer analytics, however, will recognize that this is the same customer, and you will see the conversion accurately reflected in your funnel.

Example 2: Retention Report

Retention reports tell you how many people complete an initial goal on your website and for how long they continue to complete a subsequent goal. For example, you may want to see how many people make a purchase (initial goal) and then for how long they continue to make purchases (subsequent goals).

Just as with funnels, if a customer completes the initial goal on one device and the subsequent goal on a different device, web analytics will fail to report this. Web analytics sees each device as a different person and so you will not have an accurate idea of how long people continue to come back and make purchases.

Example 3: Reporting Number of People

Say you want to see the number of people who came from a particular campaign. Some people will likely click on your campaign more than once and from more than one device. Web analytics will tell you the number of pageviews you received from each campaign, while customer analytics will tell you the number of actual people who came from that campaign and also the number of visits.

Take a look at the screenshot below to see a customer analytics report in action.

Campaign Tracking

Your Experiences

What issues have you run into with traditional web analytics? Let us know in the comments and we may tackle your problem in an upcoming post.

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