Relearning Unique Visitor Metrics in the Multi-Channel and Multi-Device World
Do you remember how digital technology looked like early days of Internet, e-commerce and web analytics? There were no smart devices or tablets; Internet Explorer was the dominant technology. Laptops and people with second home computers were very rare. Not everybody had 24 hour unlimited access to the Internet and we had that nice slow dial up connection. When people wanted to reach us on digital channels, there was usually one device or one digital asset involved.
Then technology took off; computers got cheaper and better. Internet became better, cheaper and more accessible. Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers started to become very popular and many people started to use them interchangeably. Smart devices and tablets started to be part of millions. Customers now have many different devices and companies has many ways to meet them in digital world. Websites, mobile sites, micro sites, native apps, social media apps and etc.. Multi channel and multi device era had started.
Multi Device Era
As you know cookie is based on a browser , so with this new era there is really no way of counting absolute unique visitors. Some analyst might think that cookie is computer based, well it is not and browsers don’t share cookies. If you use 3 browsers in one computer, you will be counted as 3 unique visitors. What we measure now is a unique visitor per browser.
Let me tell you about my multi channel world. I have 2 personal laptops (1 MAC and 1 PC) at home. I also use my client’s computers but I will not take that account to keep things simple.
On my PC I am using both Firefox and Chrome browsers so I am 2 users here. On my MAC I use Safari and Firefox, here I added 2 more users. I also access to similar websites on my Iphone, sometimes through browser and sometimes through native app. I have same behavior on IPAD. As you can see I am actually 8 unique visitors in digital world. Of course not everybody is like me but we know on average people uses at least 2 devices: Computer and smart devices. On average one person can be counted as 2 to 4 unique visitors.
As you can see it is pretty hard to define your absolute unique visitors number.Don’t get me wrong, I am not the type of analyst to obsess with perfect data; I use visitor number for trends. But when I use this number, I know what it is and I make sure everybody also does. For instance if you are an executive you should question how accurate this number is and if you are an analyst you should make sure that your executives don’t take this number so seriously.
Is there a no way to measure unique users who interact with my digital assets? Yes there is if you have lots of users logging in onto your site. Most e-commerce companies require customers to login to complete purchase. Other companies encourage social login to serve customers personalized experience. You want to measure engaged users on your site, that way you can make sense with data. Don’t forget anonymous customer trace is not a very good material for digital marketing anyway.