August 14, 2014, 11:13 AM

Facebook gives marketers a view into how consumers move across devices

Cross-device reporting lets advertisers see the devices on which shoppers see ads and the devices on which conversions occur.

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A consumer standing in line at the bank probably isn’t going to click an ad on his smartphone and buy a pair of pants while waiting to make his deposit. But he might go back to the office later that day and purchase the slacks on his desktop computer.

That conversion is the type of cross-device insights marketers may now be able to gather when they advertise on Facebook Inc.

The social network today announced it is rolling out cross-device reporting that will let advertisers see how shoppers move between devices—across mobile apps and the web—before they convert.

Facebook already offered targeting, delivery and conversion measurement across devices. But with the new reporting tools, advertisers will be able to view the devices consumers view an ad on, as well as the devices they use to make a purchase. For example, a marketer might learn the number of shoppers who viewed an ad on an iPhone but then later converted on desktop, or the number of people who saw an ad on desktop but then converted on an Android tablet.

The tools reflect how shoppers’ habits are changing, says Rebecca Lieb, an analyst at the business research and advisory firm Altimeter Group, whose research has found that more than 60% of U.S. online adults use at least two devices daily and 40% sometimes start an activity, like shopping, on one device but finish it another.

Facebook says that early tests show that cross-device conversions has helped marketers better understand the role of mobile in their campaigns and explain the differences in reports from third-party analytics tools that don’t analyze across devices.

The tool is a powerful weapon in Facebook’s ongoing battle with Google Inc. for marketers’ ad dollars, says Dave Yoo, chief operating officer at digital marketing agency 3Q Digital.

Google offers a similar insight for AdWords that it calls Estimated Conversions. However, Google’s feature is more limited in scope, he says.  “Facebook's launch of cross-device tracking should strike at least a little fear in Google as it, at least on paper, looks to be a much more robust execution of what Google attempted with Estimated Conversions, which still isn't available outside of Adwords and hasn't proven to be consistently reliable yet in our experience,” he says. “I give Facebook's cross-device tracking a better chance of success given the fact that it's happening on one centralized platform, whereas Google relies on authentication on Android phones, Chrome and other products in a fragmented fashion.”

Marketers can see cross-device conversions in Facebook’s Ad Reports tools.

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