Tracking Solutions to track PPC, SEO & Affiliate from Mobile to PC

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A while ago I did a post about how enhanced campaigns can hurt PPC Affiliates.  Although there are no solutions to track shoppers that browse on one device and then shop from another, more tablets are being sold which means your online marketing could and probably will have attribution issues.  Although there is no way to properly track these users 100%, here are a few ways you can begin to do it before we have a more accurate solution that is easier to implement across the board.

Here is the issue before I get started with solutions.  A person gets an email and checks it from their phone or tablet.  The person does a search, clicks a PPC ad or Affiliate site or the person clicks through from a comparison engine or SEO.  They show the product to friends or family or just don’t want to buy it yet.  Because they are tagged on their mobile device including smart phones and tablets, if they change devices or switch to a computer to complete the purchase, your tracking cookies aren’t set, the IP address more than likely changes and you cannot recognize the shopper when they do finish so you won’t know what channel to credit the sale to, who you owe money to or what channel is performing the best.  This is why it is important to think of a solution to help track mobile to desktop, tablet to desktop and any other variation of shoppers that change devices.  Here are a few things that you can do to help track some of the shoppers that change devices during the shopping process.  They aren’t and won’t be 100% accurate or reliable, but they could possibly help you to find and attribute more sales that would have been lost.

Have the end user log in.

If the end user logs into your site, you can properly tag the person by using the sale number or cart.  If you can get your mobile or tablet user to log into your site, you can properly tag them by passing the keywords from the url if you are using PPC, the Affiliate ID (but not cookie) if it is from Affiliates and more importantly, your newsletter list.  By having the end user login and using server tracking instead of or in addition to cookies, when the person comes back during the return gap (time you will credit the channel) will still be in tact and your attribution model will be a lot more accurate.  You can also credit the right channel and pay your Affiliates if they referred the sale.  The reason a cookie won’t work is because the cookie is set on a browser and the user is changing from a mobile device to a desktop or vice versa.   Because cookies may not exist on the browser or device the person will shop from which is why cookies may not work in this case.  The reason why this is important for email and newsletters is because there is a good chance, at least in my opinion, that your readers may check their email from their phone and then go to your site later to shop.  If they are logged into your site, then the server can recognize who they are, where they came from and continue to add attribution points to your time line and properly credit the right channel.  Using server tracking and having the person log into your site is an easy way to help pick up some of the misses and losses when a person starts shopping from one device and finishes on another.

Ask them to email the page to themselves.

This is a double edge sword.  If your Affiliates are a big part of your business, or PPC is a huge part and you’ve noticed sales dropping, you may want to ask the end users if they would like to email the page or product to themselves.  If the end user opts in to do this then you can parse the tracking id or re-create the Affiliate link and properly credit the channel, partner or keyword for the sale.  When the person logs into their email from a different device and clicks the link, it will restart their session, add them back to the proper attribution line and help make sure everyone who should get credit receives it.  Here’s the downside.

When you do this you may want to incentivize the person.  Email this to yourself and save 10% with a coupon.  Although your tracking is in place now, you could lose margin from the coupon code.  If you don’t offer the code but they still opt in to email the pages to themselves, you could turn someone who would have shopped online into someone who no longer shops with you.  They could forget they were going to buy something, you could hit their spam filter or even worse, they find the product for a better price or at a different store and you lose the sale.  This option has a definite risk.  That is why some sites may feel incentivizing them with a discount is a good option.  This could also get other people to log onto your mobile site just to get a coupon and now you are losing margin on all of them.  There are definite risks with this so you need to be careful when trying this method.

Email their cart to them or a link to check out.

If they are dropping off and leaving the cart without paying, you could try one more email attempt.  You could ask the mobile use if they would like to email their cart to themselves for a fast checkout later on.  By doing this you couple help to save a sale, track the proper channel and bring the person back when they get home or are ready to shop.  You will also have their email and if they do not shop within the next few days, as long as it is CANSPAM compliant where you live (if you are in the USA) and with your local city and state guidelines, or in your own country (and you have them double opt in), you can try reaching out again a couple days after with a coupon or a deal to finish their purchase.  This could be a great way to help close a potential sale that came from a tablet or mobile device, never closed and would have fallen off your tracking system.

Have a phone number pop up to call in and complete the order.

If the person leaves as they are checking out, you may want to offer them a phone number to call to complete their order.  As long as you have the Affiliate ID, PPC keyword or something else tracked where they can access it on the mobile site and read it to the person taking the order, you can track the orders and attribute the sale.  One other option is that when this number shows up, have the person who receives the phone call or customer support get an email with the keyword, Affiliate ID, etc… that brought the customer in.  You’ll have to make sure they accurately record everything and if they do you can then add the sale to the right channel and know which channels are performing better.

One final thing for Affiliates who are worried about losing sales from tablets and smart phones when the person shops on a desktop.

One of the things that scares me as an Affiliate is the increasing amount of laptops and unprepared merchants and networks.  Because many networks are cookie based and only some have server tracking, they are not equipped for this new type of shopper.  Even server tracking cannot help if the person doesn’t log in and the Affiliate ID isn’t passed.  Because of this the networks, in my opinion, should start offering scripts that Affiliates can use to install on their sites and have an email this page or product page link to their visitor’s email address.  By having the networks give us this ability we can start to protect our sales, grow our newsletters and they can protect their revenue streams as well.  It may be good for some merchants, but when mobile visitors come across an Affiliate site and are interested, it would be in everyones best interest to have a script that helps to email the Affiliate’s id to the shopper and then send them an Affiliate link with the page to their email.

As far as I know there isn’t an actual solution to track people who browse from one device and shop through another.  Because there are more and more tablets being sold and people shopping across devices, this can become a much larger issue.  Figuring out a solution now can help some companies prepare ahead of time and when someone does find a way to do this accurately, they will be able to make a ton of money.  If you came up with the idea after reading this and make a million dollars, just make sure you offer me a drink the next time I see you.  If you want to work on creating a solution with me, use the contact form as this could be a huge way to really create the next generation of analytics and attribution.

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8 thoughts on “Tracking Solutions to track PPC, SEO & Affiliate from Mobile to PC”

  1. hey adam, you grilled me yesterday. 🙂 it was fun.
    i very much enjoyed this article. the premise of having people log in creates a funnel at that moment; there will be people that won’t log in. maybe i’m missing the picture here, but won’t that happen at the log level where i can get user id, cart number, date time stamp, device type, screen size, channel via utm_source or utm_medium, etc. the key here being date time stamp where i can then see the user journey. i do love email as the trigger source because the cta link can be generated with an md5 encrypted login. on click thru you have you user journey tracking set. but still, it’s a pain to comp log with GA or any other analytics package. but this still doesn’t present a workable solution for pre logged in visitors. how do you feel about GA’s multichannel funnel as a source for pre logged in behavior? one could certainly create mediums or campaign values that holds the device information.

    1. Hi Jimmy,

      Great speaking with you as well. I actually have a couple of other solutions not listed here that can fix some of them. Those however I custom built for specific clients. This post was a way to help get you thinking about how to do it for your own specific needs. It’s very basic but can start to get more advanced as you tweak it. =0)

      It depends on the analytics system and what it is capable of.

      Always happy to talk if you ever want to call again. =0)

      Thank you for coming by and commenting,


  2. Can’t we somehow check by the FB login? You don’t need to identify the user, but you gather some info from the Facebook and then check that same info on the other device…

  3. Hi Adam,

    How does an Amazon affiliate get his commission when the user clicks on the affiliate link in one device and places the order using another device? I am assuming that cookies concept works only when one device is used to do both click the affiliate link and place the order on Amazon’s site.

    Often, I browse blogs and sites using Chrome browser in iPhone, but place orders using my macbook. With this approach will the affiliates lose commission?

    1. Hi Sriram,

      Your best bet is to write to them and ask if they have a solution and to give you an explanation on how it works. As far as I know they currently do not and their lack of a real cookie life would negate having a cross device tracking solution (just my opinion), but I haven’t actively looked so I cannot tell you for sure.

      One nice thing about them is they do have a great mobile experience so people may shop through their mobile device instead of just changing devices to shop. The downside to their mobile is that it doesn’t accurately connect your account. I tried buying a lightning deal yesterday and it wouldn’t recognize that I was a prime member on the app. I ended up not shopping or buying it because I wanted free shipping since the product was prime.

      If you’re worried about a loss and it’s for specific programs, you could always try finding a merchant that carries it and offers cross device solutions if Amazon doesn’t.

      I hope this helps,


  4. Realy? I didnt’ know If the end user logs into your site, you can properly tag the person by using the sale number or cart. Very interesting. Thanks!

    1. Yup, this is one of the ways you can help to do cross device tracking. I have other solutions we do with clients, but it all depends on their IT capabilities, their website and the goal of the site.

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