The Myth of Cross-Device Shopping: How Brands Can Create a Realistic User Journey

Total Retail

Originally published on

As digitally speaking business professionals, we sometimes think consumers making purchases are just like us, living across devices. As marketers, we hope customers experience multiple touchpoints with our brand and come back repeatedly before making a purchase. When we consider a shopper’s journey, we imagine a consumer visiting a website on an iPhone while walking their dog in the morning, jumping on their laptop when they get to work, and then making an purchase on an iPad from their treadmill at the gym.

However, based on Astound Commerce retail e-commerce data, less than 10 percent of users actually make it to the same site from multiple devices. Most only visit a site on one device, and on average they visit two times. This data is available thanks to Google Analytics User ID tracking, which allows businesses to maintain a consistent customer profile across devices (in aggregate, not revealing individual user behavior). We would expect this data to be accurate with the prevalence of Google services across mobile and desktop, from Gmail to Google Search, and especially on Android.

The small portion of users who move across devices, however, do sometimes convert at a higher rate and often spend more (as much as five times the revenue per user) since they’re likely intent on making a purchase. While this makes them an optimal customer to target and move down the conversion funnel with advertising, single-device users still account for 90-plus percent of revenue.

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So, what’s the missing part of our shopper journey equation? Well, the numbers show that people use desktop (including laptop) computers and tablets far less than we think. In fact, according to Pew Research, desktop ownership has declined by five points in the last two years to 73 percent, and tablet ownership sits steadily at around 50 percent. Whereas, 95 percent of the population own a smartphone — a near complete saturation point. Over time we will likely see less cross-device usage, and a continued increase in mobile usage, which already accounts for 60 percent to 70 percent of traffic for e-commerce sites.

The majority of consumers don’t sit in a desk job all day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers across jobs spend an average of 61 percent of the workday standing or walking, and 39 percent percent of the workday sitting. That’s probably the reverse of how most businesses think about their average consumer, and it doesn’t allow for much online shopping at the office.

So, what’s a more realistic user journey and how can retail marketers adapt?

  1. For digital experiences, think of the user who is on their mobile phone for connected activities — e.g., moving from app to app, chat to website.
  2. Mobile-first is the new standard. Not only does your website need to be mobile-optimized, its design, features and functionality must be built around a mobile user.
  3. Omnichannel may not mean picking up where you left off on another device; it may mean having the best personalized experience on the same device every time.
  4. Use mobile as an opportunity. A mobile-centric approach unlocks a series of new strategies, from mobile payment to geolocation to native apps.

Rigel Cable is associate director of data analytics and search engine optimization at Astound Commerce, a full-service digital experience agency which also houses companies Fluid and Groove.

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