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What Marketers Need to Know: How Consumers Use Multiple Screens

A new study by Microsoft reveals how always-connected consumers are increasingly using several screens simultaneously in their daily lives to stay more connected, complete tasks, or simply kill time. These screens mainly consist of: television, laptop, mobile phone and tablet devices. The study reveals how different patterns of usage emerge, not just by the time of day, but by how each device is useful at the time and, more importantly to marketers, the kind of messaging that would be most receptive across each screen.

Four types of multi-screening were introduced. The first, Content Grazing, is the most prevalent, and consists of utilizing two or more screens to view unrelated content. The most common example would be watching television and checking Facebook during a commercial break. The lowest occurrence of Content Grazing is during mid-day, presumably because people are most likely focused on work or school.

The second form of multi-screening is Investigative Spider Webbing, and consists of using multiple devises in conjunction to view related content. They may be watching a movie and look up information on the actors or plot details, or they may look up a pitcher’s stats during a baseball game. Following closely with this multi-tasking behavior is Social Spider Webbing. One example occurs when people watch a television program live while monitoring tweets with a designated hashtag for that particular show. Someone may watch Mad Men and see what people are tweeting about the current scene and character behavior in real-time. This behavior is focused on connection, and is mostly for entertainment and relaxation.

The last iteration of using several screens is called Quantum Journeys. Here, consumers move across time, location and screen to achieve a goal. Let’s say you were looking to purchase a used car. You may have your laptop open at home researching local cars for sale. You decide on a few to test drive that day. Once on the lot, you use the KBB app on your mobile phone to check pricing. After the test drive and you return home, you may pick up the tablet on the coffee table and watch a few videos on the vehicle’s performance and reviews before making a final decision. In this sense, Quantum Journeys are very helpful as a both a discovery tool and for information gathering.

How Multiple Screen Usage Changes Messaging

Multi-screening consumers are receptive to advertising, as 74% of consumers from the survey agree that “advertising can be helpful in telling me about new products or brands that might interest me.” However, they can be sensitive to how and when the content is delivered to them, the relevancy of the message and the context. 76% of respondents are open to television advertising, as they are very used to this kind of passive interruption. In contrast, the smaller the device, the more personal they become, which is why the participants are sometimes less receptive to mobile advertising. However, this may well be a result of poor context on the part of advertisers. If they match the ad on the mobile device with the behavior and the intent of the user, they will certainly see positive results, as mobile click-through rates tend to be higher than online display ads.

To that end, the research provides suggestions on effective messaging based on the screen. By understanding the motivation and needs of the consumer through their devices, advertisers can greet them where and when it’s most appropriate. Television advertising should be a brand builder, with emotional messaging that is clearly stated. On the laptop, advertisers should try to help “close the sale” by providing deeper information, reviews and comparison shopping, Tablet messaging should appeal to their sense of curiosity by telling stories with rich media and video. Mobile ads should add value to the user experience, give them ideas for later exploration (don’t interrupt) and try to facilitate a personal connection and foster a sense of belonging.

You often hear people complain that they don’t like advertising. The fact is, if the advertising placement was more relevant, better targeted and utilized helpful content to gently persuade, people would be more receptive and marketing would be more successful. Do you agree, or disagree? Let us know below!


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