What is cross-device tracking?

Glossary Cross-device tracking

The definition of cross-device tracking

Cross-device tracking refers to the set of technologies and methods used to track users across multiple devices such as mobile devices, desktop computers, laptops, and connected TVs (CTV). Cross-device tracking works by matching activity across different devices to the same user who performs them by using shared identifiers, such as sign-in data, that are in use on each user’s device.

Marketers use cross-device targeting to deliver ads to the same consumers across multiple devices, which requires cross-device tracking to generate a profile of the user across devices. There are two primary methods of cross-device tracking: deterministic tracking and probabilistic tracking.

Deterministic vs. probabilistic tracking

Deterministic tracking relies on identifiers from user login data to identify the user across devices. For instance, when a user logs into Facebook, Twitter, or Google on their laptop and mobile device, these platforms can track the user’s account across devices. Any platform or publisher that collects email addresses or requires users to sign in on their devices can use deterministic tracking for ad targeting.

Probabilistic tracking relies on identifiers that use models and algorithms to match a user’s devices. With this method, companies aggregate anonymous data points such as device type, operating system, user behavior, and IP address, and then run predictive analytics to infer if the devices belong to the same user. Most ad targeting campaigns rely on this method to target users across devices.

Why is cross device tracking important?

We live in a multi-device world; consumers increasingly use multiple devices and platforms

throughout the day, even to accomplish the same task. For instance, a user may look up an item they wish to purchase on their desktop or laptop, then switch to a mobile app later to actually make the purchase.

In this case, an app publisher may think the user came to the app directly and made the purchase, when in reality, they began the process on their web browser. Lack of visibility into user activity across devices can skew the data needed for accurate attribution and campaign planning. Cross-device tracking eliminates this issue and places activity from different devices under one user identifier.

Cross-device tracking and Adjust

With Adjust’s Web SDK, in conjunction with Adjust’s mobile SDK, Adjust clients can implement cross-device tracking via their own BI system. Adjust’s Web SDK allows clients to track installs, sessions, and events that occur on web pages or in a web app. This data is then reported in the Adjust dashboard as callbacks to an S3 bucket or BI system. To get started, clients need to set up their website as an app on Adjust’s dashboard and implement callback parameters to pass us the user ID. Clients will receive this information, which can then be linked with the callback data from the mobile app.

To learn how Yelp used Adjust to track users across devices, read our case study here. For a deeper dive into connecting the dots between platforms, devices, and channels, check out our Multi-Attribution Guide.


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