Google Report Looks at Content, Marketing Strategies in a Multi-Screen World

5 minute read
Barry Levine avatar

It’s evening, and the family is in the living room. The teenager is on her laptop Facebooking, Mom is reading the news on a tablet, and Dad is checking email on his smartphone. Oh, yes, and they’re all watching a show on television. Does this scene sound familiar? It should, according to a new report from Google

Welcome to the multi-screen world, where it would not be uncommon that you’re using more than one screen while you read this. But what does the sequential or simultaneous use of different devices mean for content creation and digital marketing?

The Google report,  "The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-platform Consumer Behavior," developed in partnership with Sterling Brands and Ipsos, focuses on how consumers are engaging with content across these different form factors.

90 Percent of Content is Screen-Based

The report, which surveyed 1611 participants over nearly 8000 hours of activity and more than 15,000 media interactions, found that 90 percent of our content interaction these days is screen-based, leaving only 10 percent for static displays in newspapers or magazines. The report didn’t cover books, but the 10 percent does include radio.

On average, TVs are still the most watched screens, at 43 minutes daily. Computers score second with 39 minutes, followed by 30 minutes on tablets and 17 minutes on smartphones. The report points out that the choice of which device is often driven by context -- where you are, what you want to accomplish and the amount of time available. For instance, checking the weather on a mobile device like your smartphone as you head out the door in the morning is different from perusing movie reviews on your laptop at home in the evening.

Savvy content creators and marketers, according to the report, need to take into account how each device type is used, and for what purpose. It cited one typical respondent, named Bradley, who said his smartphone is a “personal device” to be used for “quick, precise feedback.” The tablet is disconnected from work life, he said, adding that it was a “dream world” -- which the report said often includes media consumption, shopping or trip planning. And he regarded a laptop as work, conveying the sense that he should be “crunching numbers or doing something.”

New Google Report Looks at Content, Marketing in a Multi-screen World

Sequential, Simultaneous Device Use

When devices are used sequentially, there are some common usage patterns. For instance, the report noted that search is the most common function used across all devices. Searching on one device can lead to a related search on another.

And, even while moving between devices, smartphones remain the “backbone of our daily media interactions,” since they have the highest number of daily user interactions and often serve as the starting point for activities across multiple screens. For instance, you might start looking for movies on your smartphone, and then move to your laptop to read full reviews.

When using devices simultaneously, the most common combination by far -- cited by 81 percent of respondents --  is using a smartphone while watching TV. Sixty-six percent use a smartphone and a laptop or desktop PC at the same time, and 66 percent watch TV while using a laptop or desktop.

What are simultaneous users doing when multi-screening? Emailing is the most common activity for 60 percent, followed by Net browsing, social networking, game playing, searching, using work documents and watching a video.

Learning Opportunities

Twenty-two percent of the time, instead of doing different things on different devices, users are conducting complementary activities. The study quotes one respondent, who goes on blogs during TV’s "The Wire" in order to see what other viewers were saying, or who sometimes searches on IMDb.com to find the name of an actor or actress in the series.

Simultaneous use offers a new sense of accomplishment, the Google report found. Using two screens at the same time allows one to feel like time is being used more efficiently, as if there is “found time.”

Found Time

"Found time" means scanning for deals on Groupon while waiting in line, or checking your bank balance while watching TV. Understanding how found time is used allows for a better understanding of the content-snacking that might be best for, say, a smartphone. The report also notes that these “micro-moments” can become more “touchpoint opportunities” for advertisers.

The multi-screen world also requires a new understanding of shopping patterns. “Old style” online shopping occurred on a laptop or desktop. Now, online shopping often moves from one screen to another -- starting on a laptop and moving to a smartphone in a store, for instance, or vice versa, when a shopping thought occurs while out -- to be later researched, compared and ordered on the laptop at home.

Key Takeaways

What are the key takeaway lessons for marketers, and for the content created around marketing? The report points out that marketing strategies should no longer be considered “digital” or “traditional,” but should be tailored to the display type and the context of its use. “Conversion goals should be adjusted to account for the inherent differences in each device,” the report noted.

Sequential usage, for instance, makes it important that users be able to save their place as they move from screen to screen, such as signed-in content experiences or saved shopping carts. Additionally, since search is the action that often connects customer experience across screens, the report advises that brands design multi-device search campaigns, including “keyword parity” across devices.

Simultaneous usage also means that a conversation begun on one device, such as a TV, could trigger behavior on another. Because other screens are now commonly being used when TV is watched, for example, a TV strategy can include action triggers for other screens. Or a website might offer actionable content designed for smartphones.