How to Use Cross Device Tracking in Google Analytics

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One of the newest features to be released for Universal Analytics version of Google Analytics this year is cross device tracking. As the name suggests, this tool dares to think differently about how users engage with you brand via desktop, mobile, tablet, non-traditional devices like Xbox and Google Glass, and even offline devices like a refrigerator. There’s very little you can’t track these days.

How to Implement Cross Device Tracking

It all starts with the user ID. By setting your own unique, persistent, and non-personally identifiable identifier, the Universal library is able to supersede the default Google Analytics client ID to be customizable to your defined value. This is what allows GA to recognize the same user across sessions, devices, browsers, online and offline. Below is an example of how the code is modified, inserting custom values into “USER_ID” to being cross device tracking.

Cross Device Tracking in Action

So how about a real life use case? I’m a stereotypical Millennial who uses my laptop, tablet, and smartphone for just about everything. Most of my shopping, news (or favorite telenovela) watching, working, friendship building, and finance/life chores occur between those three devices. I choose the device based on where I am, what I’m doing, which has the most battery life at the moment, and if I’m feeling lazy, whichever device is closest to my hand. There’s order to my techno-chaos, but Classic GA doesn’t see that order, just lots of disjointed sessions. The user-centric foundation of cross device tracking was made to track the unpredictable and seemingly nonsensical behaviors of users like me.

Questions This Functionality Can Answer

Does a perfectly responsive mobile site increase your desktop conversions? Timbuk2’s responsive mobile site allowed me to browse backpacks on my phone, and inspired me to return later on my desktop to buy the one I wanted. How many mobile app sign-ups come from your desktop users? Asana, a project management platform, inspired me to download their mobile app with a well-placed mobile app announcement on their desktop site. Do they know this? The answers to these questions are now within grasp.

Available Only in Universal Analytics

What’s the catch? Cross device tracking is only available in Universal Analytics. Not yet migrated? This functionality one of many reasons why you should make the switch. It’s even easier with Google Tag Manager! When you boil down the jam, you get the sweet truth that measuring user behavior will give you many more insights into your business--where you’re succeeding in meeting customer’s needs, and where you should invest in improvements.