Cross-Device Retargeting Strategies in a Post-Cookie SEM World | Psychographic Targeting Hot House

Google recently announced, to the delight and relief of marketers everywhere, cross-device retargeting functionality across its products. We’ve patiently waited for this critically important update. Ninety percent of people switch between screens to complete tasks, but cookies limit retargeting to browsers. Google’s massive improvement of user tracking has not only streamlined retargeting across devices, it’s moved the cookie one step closer to obsolescence.

Whether this upcoming rollout will be your first time thinking about cross-device retargeting, or you’ve mastered the art of telling a story across apps, devices and sites, it’s the right time to get back to the basics of strategies that connect with customers, no matter which device they’re using. Let’s dig in.

Map the journey

Though each business has its own unique way of scoring, measuring or tracking a conversion/sale/lead down a funnel, the path to purchase generally looks the same: attract, interact, engage and convert. Differences in a customer journey occur in the time between each step, barriers, seasonality, cost and internal shifts, etc.

For B2C and e-commerce, it’s not unusual to score a purchase via a display ad, with no prior user engagement of the site, product or brand.


Interest targeting + fulfills a desire + low investment = easy buy/easy win 


For B2B industries, we’ve tracked search queries that turn to big business six years later. The amount of touch points during those six years is astonishing.

Searched for a solution + research + consideration + comparison + research + ad + transaction  


Mapping a user’s path to purchase is as important as setting your business goals. Retargeting wins when a user is provided a timely and relevant ad after showing interest. Cross-device retargeting wins when you can provide a timely and relevant ad, consistently, regardless of where the interest is taking place.

Only when an asset or KPI can be connected to a stage in the funnel can you begin to understand the intricacies of a user’s journey and create personalized experiences across devices.


  • How do paid and organic efforts currently contribute? Where should they be?
  • Is the buyer funnel complex? Could it be streamlined?
  • Where is it beneficial to re-engage?
  • Do we have the capabilities to track/measure?  

Segment, report, repeat

After establishing objectives or goals for re-engagement, the next step is understanding how, when and where users are interacting with your assets. Reporting performance and frequency by device will often surface potential bottlenecks in the conversion path and can lead to some important business decision making optimizations (new technology adoption, AMP rollout, ad type testing, etc.).    

If a third-party provider isn’t being utilized, Google Analytics is a great starting place for behavioral data by device type. The Adwords Cross Device Activity Report (currently only available for search) sheds supplemental insight at the keyword level, and can be segmented by device, location or proximity to store using the following:

  • Device reports to measure interaction between ad clicks and conversions by device type.


  • Assisting devices to inform how often each device acts as an assisting conversion.


  • Device path to learn how users transition between devices while moving through the funnel.


Understanding where your audiences spend time (and when) along with the reasons for a device being used will influence the budget allocated per device. Thankfully the buyer journey has been mapped out, and will be key to connecting assets to stages for re-engagement in the funnel.

For example, for a high-end furniture store, we saw that roughly 70 percent of traffic came in from mobile or tablet, yet 60 percent of purchases occurred on desktop. When it came to remarketing, it was crucial to re-engage with users:

  • In the research phase (new visitor, moderate engagement) with product information/offerings via mobile   
  • In the consideration phase (multi-session, multi-device, high engagement) with product benefits on tablet or desktop
  • Close to purchase phase (cart abandon) with coupon codes or incentives on desktop    

Note: Attribution will be an important topic of conversation during this time. As AdWords’ default model is last-click, reporting in this channel will limit allocating credit to preceding touch points across devices unless otherwise specified. By tracking the purchase process in its entirety across devices, there is now data tied to a full customer journey, and not just the device that lead to purchase.  


  • What is our best suited attribution model?
  • What devices bring in purchases?
  • What devices bring in consideration?
  • What devices bring in research?   


Strategists who want to survive must comprehend and capitalize on connecting personas to messaging. Linking targeting, measurement and deeply personalized ad creative with consumer profiles now includes more considerations than ever (channels, devices, screens, geos, weather forecasts, content, behaviors), and only after segmentation has occurred can effective re-engagement by device predilection and purchase stage take place.

When sufficient data has been collected to create true consumer personas (think lookalikes, customer match and affinity audience filters), it’s time to hone in on who the desired targets are and map their messaging experience. Segmentation can be based on demographics, psychographics, value and past behavior.  



  • How can our CRM feed cross-device retargeting segmentation?
  • Do budgets reflect amount of segments?

Touchpoint tango

Comprehending and utilizing learned interaction points across the devices allows for a more sincere and intentional connection with desired and current customers. Timing is everything at this step, as it’s no longer about the ZMOT (zero moment of truth), but sometimes about being able to anticipate needs even before a search box is hit. Referring back to the buyer journey, knowing the cycle or time between each user decision juncture will inform frequency and decay of ad settings, as well as creative.

As we’ve said before and we’ll say again, creative messaging is the crux of a retargeting campaign, and this especially pertains to creating cross-device connections. Artificial intelligence will only continue to develop when it comes to management and optimization, but resonant ad creative still contains a human element that bots can’t beat.

To win at creative in cross-device circuits:

  • Marketing and creative teams need to run efficient (and agile). Testing should always be taking place, and advertisers must have the ability to pivot without a two-week turnaround on new ad creative. Establishing a bank of pre-approved ad elements paired with a strategy of streamlining ad creation based on essential keywords and sentence framework allows for faster learnings and increased test iterations.  
  • Take advantage of extensions. Extensions can significantly impact a retargeting campaign. Treat them as an opportunity to upsell, cross-sell, take up SERP real estate, explain benefits and gain trust.
  • Test ad types. Don’t think your industry belongs in SMS or PLA territory? Think again. Proficient retargeting is far more than resizing images or using fewer characters to better fit a screen. Refer back to how audiences are using each device to fulfill their needs at varying points in the day, and find pockets of opportunity to streamline interaction.  
  • Assess competitors. Monitor how, where and with what frequency competitors re-engage with audiences across devices to influence testing (or what not to test).

‘Unconventional’ targeting & the future

AdWords may have limits on targeting and retargeting capabilities, but don’t limit yourself to smartphones and tablets. Podcasts, VR, wearables, video games, TV, voice assistants and maps are all frequent playgrounds of your prospects, and forgetting them in your funnel is leaving out potential revenue. Think outside the box, and look for ways to harness influence tracking (think phone sentiment influence, voice assistants, beacons) in retargeting. Finally, offline tracking attribution and behavior measurement is essential if offline contributes to revenue.

When it comes to cross-device retargeting success, measuring with an attribution model that aids in optimization is only half the battle. Long-term revenue comes from creating honest connections that service a need or answer a question — on whatever screen it may occur.  Google is taking strides in a much desired direction, and the opportunity to reach users across its products will hopefully empower marketers to use these advancements to make more meaningful connections.   

Happy Retargeting!

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Stay Connected