The multi-screening age

Liam is perusing his social media profiles on his laptop while the television blares the latest episode of his favourite show. A flashy, witty ad for a new kind of cat food comes on. Intrigued, Liam looks it up, but not wanting to disrupt the ongoing social media and chat sessions on his laptop, he uses his smartphone. After reading a while about the cat food, he wants to compare this product side by side with the ones he has bought in the past, so he performs the search from his laptop a few hours later.

In all likelihood, that sounds like you. And if you’re not Liam, your customers certainly are.

That’s what a study on cross-platform consumer behaviour conducted by Google, Sterling Brands and Ipsos found. We spend a lot of our time in front of multiple screens.

Of all the time we spend interacting with media, only 10% occurs with traditional, non-screen based media. The other 90% of our media interaction is spent looking at TV, computer, tablet and smartphone screens, for a total of 4.4 hours of our leisure time per day. That’s a heck of a lot of screen time for digital marketers to leverage.

1. Devise channel-specific marketing strategies

It’s not enough anymore to have separate marketing strategies for “traditional” versus “digital” media. You need separate (but linked!) marketing strategies for each channel, because the contexts in which people use them differ. See for yourself:

  • Computers: We spend 24% of our media interaction on computers, primarily to work and to find information.
  • Smartphones: We spend 38% of our media interaction on smartphones, primarily to stay connected and for entertainment.
  • Tablets: We spend 9% of our media interaction on tablets, primarily for entertainment.

To maximize your reach, devise marketing strategies that address the particularities of each channel. For example, as you can see from the data above, smartphones are the most frequently used device. They also happen to be the device that most lends itself to spontaneous shopping. 81% of smartphone shopping is spontaneous rather than planned, versus 58% of computer shopping.

Mobile shopping
Photo credit: Jason Howie,

Smartphones also allow for versatility in shopping. 41% of smartphone shopping occurs outside the home, compared with only 16% of computer-based shopping. That means nearly half of smartphone shopping occurs at the coffee shop, at work, on the bus, or wherever fancy may strike.

Adapt your mobile marketing strategy to these smartphone-specific characteristics. Create mobile landing pages and promotions that foster spontaneity. And if you’re not on mobile yet, get on mobile!

2. Be easy to find across devices

Targeting different media channels is a good first step. Targeting the different media consumption practices is an excellent next step. Media consumption practices entail multiple screens. There are two forms of multi-screening:

  • Sequential screening: switching from one device to another;
  • Simultaneous screening: using more than one device at a time, which itself falls under one of two categories:
    • Multi-tasking: performing unrelated activities from two or more devices at the same time;
    • Complementary usage: using multiple devices at once to perform a single activity.

90% of people use sequential screening to perform an activity, and of these, 98% switch between devices within 24 hours. If we look at the data for shopping specifically, 67% of consumers switch from one device to another while shopping online. Most often, people start their online shopping on a smartphone and switch to a computer, though not always.

Switching devices while shopping
Source: Google, The New Multi‐screen World, 2012

More complex tasks are usually started on a computer. When planning a trip, 38% of consumers begin on a computer, and 31% of these continue on a smartphone.

How do people switch between devices?

The most common method employed to switch between devices and resume one’s shopping session is to search for the product or web page from the new device. The second most common method of switching is to navigate directly to the website in question from the new device, followed by sending oneself an email or a link.

How consumers switch between devices
Source: Google, The New Multi-screen World, 2012

Make it easy for consumers to resume their shopping where they left it when they switch devices. Give them easy to use shopping carts and sign-in options to save their progress on your website. Provide visible emailing options for them to send themselves their session or the link to a given page.

But now that you know that more often than not consumers will search for your website again from the new device, help them find you through search with a multi-device search campaign. Ensure keyword parity across devices so that it’s easy to find you from any device. It’s frustrating to find a neat product from your computer and then be unable to find it when using search on your phone. Then you have to go back to your computer, which you may already have turned off, and find the link there to send it to yourself. Save your customers the frustration!

3. Take advantage of simultaneous device use

On average, we use three different combinations of simultaneous screens per day.

  • 81% of people use a smartphone while watching television.
  • 66% of people use smartphone and a laptop simultaneously.
  • 66% of people use a laptop while watching television.

One way to boost conversions during simultaneous usage is to understand that viewing something on a computer may prompt a user to take action on a smartphone, or vice versa. Limiting calls to action and conversion goals to the device where they were originally displayed means missing out on cross-device conversion. Make sure to have calls to action on all devices.

You can also make the best of simultaneous screening by harnessing specifically the role of television in prompting other activities. Most people’s attention is divided when watching TV: 77% of people who watch television will use another device at the same time. They might check their email during commercials, or they might look up actor and show information as their curiosity is triggered by the events on screen.

In fact, television accounts for a large portion of searches:

Sarches instigated by tv
Source: Google, The New Multi-screen World, 2012

Here’s what you can do right now:

  • Have TV ads that impel viewers to take immediate action.
  • Provide a short URL in your ads to drive them towards your landing page.
  • Use their willingness to be distracted to direct their attention towards your product.
  • Create arresting ads that make people want to learn more.
  • Adopt the consumer’s cross-device media consumption mentality and have cross-device marketing strategies.
  • Address the particularities of each form of digital media with different marketing strategies for each channel, but have a global strategy that connects the different channels.

Don’t let your competitors leave you behind, have a Free 30 minute consultation with us.

Tagged with: channel strategy, Marketing Channels, mobile search, multi-screen marketing, smartphones, TV

About Taylor Najjar

Taylor Najjar is a copywriter and copyeditor and the founder of Righting Words. Taylor writes on a range of topics, including retail and marketing.