Google Analytics Cross Device Tracking Reports (without login)

Last Updated: May 20, 2022

What is Google Analytics Cross Device Tracking?

Cross-device tracking in Google Analytics is the tracking of users’ activities across mobile, tablet and desktop devices.

It is the tracking of your users’ activities across multiple screens and web browsers.

Why do you need cross-device tracking?

By default, Google Analytics is not able to track users’ activities across devices

Let us suppose a user returned to your website but via a different device or web browser. In that case, he will be reported as a new user by Google Analytics.

This is because the _ga cookie can exist only on the device and browser where it has been set up.

Since client ID is stored in the GA cookie, the client ID will also exist only on the device and browser where it has been set up.

Because of this reason, by default, GA cannot identify unique users across different web browsers and devices.

In other words, by default, Google Analytics is not able to track users’ activities across devices.

And that’s why we need to manually set up cross-device tracking.

According to Google, 6 out of 10 online users (particularly in the US) start their shopping activity on one device but continue or complete their shopping activity on a different device.

Because of this reason, setting up cross-device tracking is very important.

Your customers can use different devices to interact with your website or marketing campaigns.

For example, they can do their initial research on their mobile device and then make a purchase later, on their desktop computer.

In the absence of cross-device tracking, you may get the following insight from your GA reports:

  • A lot of users visited your website from mobile devices but they did not make a purchase.
  • The users who did make a purchase came from desktop devices.

So armed with this knowledge, you may completely stop advertising on mobile devices. 

You may shift all of your marketing budgets to advertise on desktop devices.  

However, this is going to be a big mistake and would likely result in a monetary loss. 

This is because mobile devices are playing an important role in customer purchase journeys. 

It is the mobile devices that introduce your brand and your offer to your prospects.

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Let’s take another example.

Let us suppose 1000 customers bought $100,000 worth of items via their mobile devices on your website.

Later the same number of customers bought $200,000 worth of items via their desktop devices.

Now without a cross-device tracking setup, you may get the following insight from your GA reports:

  • You got 1000 customers from mobile and another 1000 customers from the desktop.
  • Desktop customers are more valuable than mobile customers because they made a bigger purchase.
  • You should be spending more on acquiring customers via desktop.

Armed with this knowledge, you may reduce your ad spend on mobile devices. 

You may increase your marketing budget on desktop devices. 

However, this is going to be a big mistake and would likely result in a monetary loss. 

This is because, without the advertisement on mobile devices, you wouldn’t have got your 1000 customers in the first place. 

And without these customers, you would have not been able to subsequently generate $200k of additional sales via desktop devices. 

So,

If you want to develop a better understanding of your customers’ purchase journey then you would need to track their activities across devices and web browsers. 

Let us suppose you came to the conclusion that your customers primarily use mobile devices to do their initial research.

But they almost always make their purchase on a desktop.

In that case, you can do the following two things:

  1. Run mobile-only marketing campaigns that focus on the benefits that your product provides. The objective here is to get landing page views and not necessarily generate a sale.
  2. Run desktop-only campaigns that retarget customers who did not complete the purchase on mobile devices. The objective here is to generate sales.

Methods to set up cross-device tracking

You can set up cross-device tracking in Google Analytics via the following methods:

  1. By activating Google Signals.
  2. By setting up a user ID.
  3. By using measurement protocol.
  4. By using Google Analytics 4 property.

Introduction to Google Analytics Cross Device Tracking Reports

Google Analytics provides cross-device reports through which you can get a better understanding of how users engaged and converted on your website across different devices and browsers and over the course of multiple sessions.

Traditionally, in order to access and use the cross-device reports, you are required to set up cross-device tracking in Google Analytics via ‘User ID’, and the cross-device reports were available only in the ‘User ID’ view.

But with the advent of Google Signals, the cross-device reports are now also available in the non-user ID views. 

So as of now, there are two sets of cross-device reports available in Google Analytics.

In order to access and use the cross device reports, you would have to activate Google Signals for your GA property.

GA starts collecting cross-device data from the day, you first activated Google Signals for your property.

Note: GA cross device data does not work retroactively.

The Two Sets of Google Analytics Cross Device Tracking Reports

The first set of cross-device reports are available in the ‘User ID’ view.

Let’s call these reports as user id cross-device reports for easy reference:

Google Analytics Cross Device Tracking Reports with login

The second set of cross-device reports are available in a ‘non-User ID’ view (provided Google Signals has been activated for your GA property).

Let’s call these reports as Google signals cross-device reports for easy reference:

Google Analytics Cross Device Tracking Reports without login

This second and new set of cross-device reports is still in beta and it provides one additional report called the channels report.

So with the advent of Google Signals, you can now take advantage of two different sets of cross-device tracking reports in GA:

two different sets of cross device tracking reports in GA

Google Signals cross-device reports are the reports you get access to once you activate Google Signals.

User ID cross-device reports are the reports you get access to once you set up the User ID. 

How to access and use the Google Signals cross-device reports in Google Analytics?

In order to access and use the Google Signals cross-device reports in Google Analytics, you would need to activate Google Signals for your GA property.

You can learn about activating the Google Signals for your GA property through this article: Google Signals in Analytics – Tracking users across devices without login

Once you have activated Google Signals for your GA property, navigate to a reporting view (which is not a user ID view).

Navigate to the ‘Audience’ > ‘Cross Device’ menu:

Google Signals cross device reports in Google Analytics

You should now be able to see the following cross-device reports:

  1. Device Overlap report
  2. Device Paths report
  3. Channels report
  4. Acquisition Device report
cross device reports google analytics

Through these cross-device reports, you can get a better understanding of: 

  • How users engaged on your website across different devices and over the course of multiple sessions.
  • How users converted on your website across different devices and over the course of multiple sessions.

Collect at least 30 days of data from the date you first activated Google signals before you start your data analysis via the cross-device reports.

Otherwise, your data is not going to be statistically meaningful. And you are likely to draw the wrong conclusions.

Device Overlap Report

Through the Device Overlap report, you can determine the website users who interacted with your website via multiple devices.

device overlap report
device overlap report 2

The Device Overlap report uses a bar chart and a Venn diagram to visualize the percentage of users who used one or multiple devices to interact with your website. 

The horizontal axis of the bar chart plots the number of website users for each device category. Whereas, the vertical axis of the bar chart plots the various device categories.

users by device category

The vertical axis of the bar chart plots the following device categories:

Desktop Only – This device category includes only those website users who interacted with your website via a desktop device. A user can interact with your website by visiting it and/or by completing a conversion.

Mobile Only – This device category includes only those website users who interacted with your website via a mobile device. 

Desktop + Mobile – This device category includes only those website users who interacted with your website via both desktop and mobile devices.

Tablet Only – This device category includes only those website users who interacted with your website via a tablet device.

Mobile + Tablet – This device category includes only those website users who interacted with your website via both mobile and tablet devices.

Each coloured circle in the Venn diagram represents a device category.

The Venn diagram is the best way to visualize and understand the percentage of users who used multiple devices (desktop, tablet, and mobile) to interact with your website:

venn diagram

The bigger the overlap you see between different circles, the more users interact with your website via multiple devices. 

If you do not see any overlap at all then it means users did not interact with your website via multiple devices:

no overlap

The Data Table

In your Device Overlap report, underneath the bar chart and the Venn diagram, you will find a data table:

data table

This data table summarises the data that you see in the bar chart and Venn diagram. 

The data table provides the following additional insight for each device category:

The left-hand side of the data table provides the option to select between two dimensions: ‘Device Category’ & ‘Device Category and OS via the drop-down menu:

device category

The right-hand side of the data table provides the option to select between transactional goals (ecommerce) and non-transactional goal(s) via the drop-down menu:

ecommerce 1

So if you select ‘All Goals’ option then the data table will report on the following metrics: ‘Goal Value’, ‘Goal Conversion Rate’, ‘Goal Completions’ and ‘Goal Value Per user’ for each device category:

all goals

That’s how you can slice and dice the device category data in the device overlap report.

What kind of insight you can get from the Device Overlap report?

Through the Device Overlap report, you can determine the device combination which is more likely to produce conversions on your website.

Let us suppose, you concluded that the users who used both desktop and mobile devices converted at a much higher rate than the users:

  • who used only desktop devices and
  • the users who used only mobile devices

In that case, it is wise to advertise on both mobile and desktop devices and not give preference to any one device. 

This is the kind of insight you can get from the Device Overlap report.

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  • Learn to implement attribution modelling in your organisation
  • Understand the customer purchase journey across devices
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Device Paths Report

Through the device paths report, you can determine the order in which your website users used different devices to interact with your website.

A device path represents that order. 

device paths report

The device path report shows device paths for each of the following dimensions:

  1. Device Category
  2. Device Category and Campaign
  3. Device Category and Channel
  4. Device Category and Medium
  5. Device Category and OS
  6. Device Category and Source

The device path represents the order in which your website users use different devices (desktop, mobile, tablet) to interact with your website.

For example, from the highlighted device path below, we can conclude that 725 website users interacted with your website, first via mobile and then via desktop:

highlighted device paths report

These 725 website users generated 2,519 Google Analytics sessions on your website and spent on average 5 minutes and 29 seconds on your website.

The Device Paths report does not contain any chart. It contains only a data table.

The left-hand side of the data table shows website usage data (users, sessions, avg. session duration) for each device path.:

website usage data

The right-hand side of the data table shows the ecommerce/goal performance associated with each device path:

device path ecommerce 1

From the data table above, we can conclude the following:

  1. The users who interacted with your website first via mobile and then via desktop made a total purchase of $22,458.11
  2. The average revenue per user was $31.00.
  3. The ecommerce conversion rate for the users who interacted with your website first via mobile and then via desktop was 6.8%
  4. The average transactions per user were 0.236

The concept of the device path is quite similar to the concept of conversion paths in multi-channel funnel reports

Following are examples of device paths for the dimension called ‘Device Category’:

dimension called ‘Device Category 1

Following are examples of device paths for the dimension called ‘Device Category and Channel’:

device category and channel

You can select a different dimension for your device paths report by clicking on the drop-down menu, as shown below:

drop down menu
drop down menu 2

You can switch between ecommerce and goal conversion(s) by clicking on the drop-down menu, as shown below:

ecommerce

The ‘Path Options’ setting of the Device Paths report

path options device paths report

Through ‘Path Options’ settings, you can also look at the device paths before and after:

  1. Any Goal completion.
  2. Any transaction
  3. Event Action
  4. Event Category
  5. Event Label
  6. Page
  7. Goal

To look at the device paths before any goal/transactions/event action etc, select ‘before‘ from the ‘Show Steps‘ drop-down menu and then select the action (like ‘any goal’, ‘any transaction’, ‘event action’ etc) from the second drop-down menu:

show steps before

To look at the device paths after any goal/transactions/event action etc, select ‘after‘ from the ‘Show Steps‘ drop-down menu and then select the action (like ‘any goal’, ‘any transaction’, ‘event action’ etc) from the second drop-down menu:

show steps after

For example, to see the device paths before any transaction, follow the steps below:

Step-1: Click on the drop-down menu next to ‘Show Steps’:

show steps

Step-2: Select the ‘before’ option:

before option

Step-3: Click on the second drop-down menu:

second drop down menu
any goal

Step-4: Select the option ‘any transaction’ from the second drop-down menu and then click on the ‘Apply’ button:

apply button

You can also search for a particular device path(s) by typing the search query next to the magnifying glass icon and then pressing the enter key:

search for device paths

Channels Report (Cross-Device Channels Report)

The ‘channels’ report (or cross-device channels report) show the performance of cross-device channels in terms of acquisition, behaviour, and outcome (ecommerce, goals)

cross device channels report google analytics

Cross-device channels are those marketing channels that your website users were exposed to, as they interacted with your website across devices. 

The ‘Channels’ report shows a bar chart and column chart at the top of the report:

bar chart and column chart at the top of the report

By default, this bar chart and column chart visualises cross-device users by default channel grouping.

The bottom of the ‘Channels’ report contains a data table that shows the performance of cross-device channels in terms of acquisition, behaviour, and outcome (Ecommerce, Goals):

acquisition behaviour and outcome

If you want the cross-device channels report to visualize cross-device users by another dimension say ‘source/medium’ then select ‘source/medium’ from the drop-down menu in the data table:

source medium

In the cross-device channels report you can add a secondary dimension by clicking on the ‘+’ button as shown below:

secondary dimension 1

The secondary dimension that is selected by default is ‘Device Category’ but you can change it by clicking on the down arrow button next to it:

change secondary dimension

How to use Cross Device Channels Report in Google Analytics

Cross-device channels are those marketing channels that your website visitors were exposed to as they interacted with your website across devices.

Use the ‘Cross-Device Channels’ report only when you have concluded from your data analysis that:

#1 People who use multiple devices during their purchase journey tend to convert better than those who don’t use multiple devices.

#2 Cross-device tracking and cross-device attribution are important for your business.

From the ‘Cross-Device Channels’ report, you can identify the websites/platforms for your advertising. 

Advertising on these websites/platforms can improve revenue per visitor as people who use multiple devices tend to convert better. 

Follow the steps below:

Step-1: Navigate to the ‘Channels’ report (under ‘Cross Device’):

cross device channels report google analytics

Step-2: Make sure the date range of the report is set to the last 30 days.

Step-3: Scroll down to the data table and then click on the down arrow button in the first column:

Scroll down to the data table

Step-4: From the drop-down menu, click on the option ‘Source/Medium’:

Click on the option ‘Source/Medium

Step-5: Now look at the ‘Revenue’ column of the data table:

revenue column

From the screenshot above we can conclude the following:

In terms of sales, Google organic search is the top cross-device channel followed by Google Ads (google / cpc), Facebook ads (facebook / paid social), YouTube and Email (getresponse / email)

Example Insight

Since people who use multiple devices during their purchase journey tend to convert better than those who don’t use multiple devices, consider advertising more on Google Ads, Facebook, YouTube and Email to target cross-device traffic. Advertising on these platforms could improve revenue per visitor.

Acquisition Device Report

Through the Acquisition Device report, you can determine whether a user converted on the originating device or on some other device.

Acquisition Device report

What is an originating device?

The very first device a website user used to interact with your website is known as the originating device. 

The originating device is also known as the acquisition device as this is the device through which you first acquired a user.

The Acquisition Device report shows a bar chart and line chart at the top of the report which, by default, visualises new users by device category.

The Acquisition Device report shows a bar chart and line chart at the top of the report

The Acquisition Device report contains a data table at the bottom of the report. 

data table acquisition device report

The first column of the data table lists all the acquisition/originating devices. 

The fourth column of the data table shows revenue from each originating device. 

And the fifth column of the data table shows revenue from other devices:

Let us suppose that people visited your website for the first time via display ads on mobile. They also made their purchase via mobile devices.

Now, through the ‘Revenue From Originating Device’ metric, you can determine whether your mobile-only advertising resulted in sales on mobile devices.

Similarly,

Let us suppose that people visited your website for the first time via display ads on desktop. They also made their purchase via desktop.

Now,

Through the ‘Revenue From Originating Device’ metric, you can determine whether your desktop-only advertising resulted in sales on desktop devices.

Let us suppose that people visited your website for the first time via display ads on mobile. But then they returned to your website via desktop to make their purchase.

Now, through the ‘Revenue From Other Devices’ metric, you can determine whether your mobile-only advertising resulted in sales on desktop devices.

Therefore,

Through the revenue from other devices metric, you can measure the cross-device impact of your marketing campaigns in terms of sales.

If you want the acquisition device report to visualize data by another dimension say ‘Device Category and Channel’ then select ‘Device Category and Channel’ dimension from the drop-down menu in the data table:

device category and channel
new users by device category2

Important points about Google Signals cross-device reports

#1 Google Analytics does not collect cross-device data retroactively. 

Google Analytics starts collecting cross-device data from the day you first activated Google Signals for your property. 

#2 You may need to wait for a long time before you can see the data in cross-device reports.

Depending upon the volume of traffic your website gets, it may take days or even weeks before you can see data being populated in your cross-device reports.

#3 If you manage a low traffic website, you may not see any cross-device data

If your website gets a very low volume of traffic, you may not be able to see any data for your cross-device reports regardless of how long you wait.

#4 When you activate Google Signals for the first time, you are likely to see more direct traffic and new users in your cross-device reports

When you activate Google Signals for the first time, there is no campaign history associated with the logged-in Google users who have turned on Ads Personalization.

When those users return to your website, they are counted as new users and their traffic is categorised as direct traffic

Therefore, you are likely to see more direct traffic and new users in your cross-device reports for the first few weeks.

#5 In Google Signals cross-device reports, users are deduplicated across devices.

Let us suppose a user first interacted with your website via mobile. Then later he interacted with your website via desktop.

Now in the Google Signals cross-device reports, the user will be reported as a new user on the mobile and a returning user on the desktop.

In other reports where users are not deduplicated across devices, the same user would be reported as a new user on both mobile and desktop.

#6 Google Signals Cross-device reports are prone to errors.

cross device reports error

There is always a high probability that one or all of your cross-device reports may stop working any day, any time.

They may either don’t load the data or take forever to load. This has been a persistent issue with these reports for quite a long time.

Cross-device reports can take an unusually long time to load for some reason (maybe because they are in beta) so do not be alarmed if you see a notification like the one below:

reload

#7 Google Analytics applies a fixed system-defined (and unknown) threshold to cross-device data. 

This has been done to prevent you from viewing the cross-device activities of an individual user. 

Unless your reporting view has collected enough cross-device data to overcome this threshold, you may not see any data in your cross-device reports. 

#8 Google Analytics can hide certain cross-device data from the reports.

Sometimes Google Analytics is not confident in the accuracy of the estimation of cross-device behaviour of your user base. 

In that case, Google Analytics can hide certain cross-device data from the reports.

#9 The cross-device reports are still in beta. 

So expect data discrepancy in and between cross-device reports.

Note: Collect at least 30 days of data from the date you first activate Google signals before you start your data analysis via cross-device reports. Otherwise, your data is not going to be statistically significant and you are likely to draw the wrong conclusion.

Differences Between Google Signals and User ID cross-device reports

Following are the key differences between user ID and Google Signals cross-device reports:

Difference #1

The cross-device reports in the user ID view collect and report on cross-device data related to the logged in users of your website. 

Whereas the Google Signals cross-device reports, collect and report on cross-device data related to those website users who meet the following criteria:

  1. The website users have signed in to one of their Google accounts (Gmail, YouTube, etc) while interacting with your website.
  2. The website users have turned on Ads Personalization.

Difference #2

The cross-device reports in the user ID view do not report on the cross-device data related to those website users who have signed in to one of their Google accounts and who have turned on Ads Personalization.

Similarly,

The Google Signals cross-device reports do not report on the cross-device data related to the logged in users of your website.

Difference #3

You can apply advanced segments to cross-device reports in the user ID view. This is something that is not possible with Google Signals cross-device reports.

Difference #4

The cross-device reports for user ID view will collect and report on cross-device data only when you have set up user ID on your website.

Setting up a user ID is not straightforward and generally requires the help of a web developer.

Whereas, Google Signals cross-device reports collect and report on cross-device data only when you have activated Google Signals for your property.

Activating Google Signals is pretty straightforward and requires clicking on just a couple of buttons. It does not require any code update or development work.

Difference #5

The cross-device reports meant for user ID view are not exactly the same as the Google Signals cross-device reports (though they share common names).

Their reporting interface is quite different and they both have got different sets of dimensions and metrics.

For example, the Device Overlap report in a user ID view is quite different than the Device Overlap report found in a non-user ID view:

device overlap report in user id view
device overlap report in non user id view

Difference #6

Google Analytics provides three cross-device reports for user ID view but four cross-device reports for non-user ID view.

The one additional report called the Channels report is available only in the non-user ID view.

Difference #7

The Google Signals cross-device reports are still in beta. This is not the case with the cross-device reports in the user ID view.

Note(1): The data in the cross-device reports are sampled when the date range you are using, exceeds 250k sessions.

Note(2): You can enable your GA property for both User ID and Google Signals.

Note(3): You should take advantage of the cross-device capabilities provided by both User ID and Google Signals.

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