Apple gave us the iPhone in 2007. Four years later, 35% of American adults owned a smartphone; that number is now 77%. By 2014, there were officially more smartphones and tablets in the world than people and the average U.S. household had more than 5 devices. Today, the average individual digital consumer owns nearly 4.

Why the brief technological history lesson? Because the proliferation of devices in the lives of consumers has significant implications for how you should be thinking about marketing. Gone are the days when your customers would spend all of their online time on a single desktop computer. Today, the typical consumer might tap your ad on their phone, pick up their tablet to browse your site, and then shift over to!

their laptop to make a purchase.

If your company is like most, then situations like this one could lead to incorrect assumptions about customer behavior. Rather than telling the story of a single user clicking through an ad and purchasing your product, the data might show that your ad failed to convert Customer A and that, on an unrelated note, Customer B navigated directly to your site to make an unsolicited purchase. Errors like these cause inaccuracies in data that can lead to ill-designed marketing campaigns.

Our technology and marketing methodologies must adapt to reflect contemporary consumer behavior. In an increasingly mobile-centric world where users spend 86% of their time in apps, marketers can no longer rely on cookies to provide accurate insights. Consider these statistics, reported last year by Nielsen:

  • 58% of cookie-based measurement is overstated

  • 35% of cookie-based demographic targeting is inaccurate

  • 12% of conversions are missed by cookies

If a tactic so essential to digital marketing as cookies is becoming outdated, what are marketers to do? What new innovation will replace the cookie as the foundation of digital marketing strategy?

Targeting People, not Devices

To engage effectively with today's digital consumer, marketers must embrace a paradigm shift: they must stop targeting devices and begin targeting people. People-based marketing allows marketers to deliver a cohesive customer experience by tracking with a single user across multiple devices and channels.

At the core of people-based marketing is the ability to accurately identify individual consumers no matter what device they're using to interact with your brand. A recent e-book from Digiday puts it this way:

"In order to execute a true people based campaigns, marketers have to be able to reach the same verified individual no matter what screen they're using.

The verified identities established on social platforms or in CRM databases need to be linked to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Cross-device identification makes this possible by knitting together deterministic data (logged-in interactions, device ids, email addresses) with known individual data and with probabilistic data, which links together known data points with educated suppositions."

To accomplish cross-device identification, marketers must learn to depend on first-party data - such as Facebook logins and information stored on CRMs - rather than on third-party data like cookies and tracking pixels. Platforms such as Atlas and Bridge are forging the technological path through this new marketing frontier.  

A New Gold Standard

The benefits of people-based marketing are wide-ranging and powerful. By investing in people-based marketing, companies can gain deeper insights into their customers' behaviors and priorities. Marketing teams can create content that is more relevant to their audience and can engage more meaningfully with individual customers at every stage of their journey.

It's for reasons like these that Spotify's Global VP, Partner Solutions, Danielle Lee, recently called people-based strategy "the gold standard for marketing." "With people-based marketing," Lee explained, "You have greater assurance that your message is reaching your known customer and driving measurable results."

Spotify isn't alone in embracing the new people-based paradigm. Take a look at some of these statistics:

  • In 2014, 65% of marketers who participated in a Digiday survey either had already invested in people-based campaigns or were planning to do so.

  • In 2015, 77% of marketers who had implemented people-based strategies planned to increase spending in this area.

  • Last year, 48% of media buyers reported that spending on people-based advertising campaigns was growing quickly.

  • A 2016 survey found that 56 percent of marketers planned to increase spending on cross-device campaigns in 2017.

In just a few short years, people-based marketing has arisen as the winning strategy for our multi-device world.