What Multiscreening Can Mean for Your Bottom Line: The Research Is In

As technology continues to seep into every aspect of our lives, more and more consumers are exhibiting a type of digital media consumption called “multiscreening” – splitting their attention between multiple devices at the same time. A new study from Microsoft has identified four main ways that users multiscreen, producing new information about consumer behavior that could be the driving force behind new types of advertising.

More Users Multiscreening Than Ever

A quick tally just resulted in the startling realization that my two person, one cat household includes six internet-connected digital devices with screens, and three non-connected devices. It turns out though, that my partner and I are not actually technology hoarders, but just about average: according to Google, most consumers split their daily online time between four different devices. Even more interesting? Most of us are using at least two of those devices at the same time.

In their recent study on multiscreening behavior, Google found that 81% of respondents use their smartphone while they watch TV. Two thirds of those surveyed said that they use their smartphone and computer at the same time, and two thirds also said they use their computer and TV at the same time. While that information is certainly a good point of departure for creating a multi-platform ad campaign, there is now even more research. Microsoft Advertising surveyed over 3,500 consumers and identified four main styles of multiscreening. Let’s check them out, and see which styles might lend themselves to different types of advertising.

content grazing multiscreeningContent Grazing

Grazing is, apparently, no longer just for ruminants. The most common style of multiscreening, content grazing describes moving from one screen to another to access unrelated types of content. So, for example, you might be using your TV to catch up on Scandal (that’s what people are watching these days, right?) while simultaneously using your tablet to look at a pizza delivery menu.

Because the types of content are unrelated, there’s less opportunity for linkage here for advertising. That said, you can use this type of multiscreening behavior to try to tip it into a different style of multiscreening. So let’s say you’re a pizza chain – because you know that consumers watching TV around dinner time are probably also using their tablet or smartphone, your television commercial could encourage hungry viewers to download your app and use it to order their pizza.

Investigative Spider-Webbing

Slightly less common but still relevant for 57% of respondents is “investigative spider-webbing.” No, this doesn’t mean putting on a spidey suit and fighting crime, unfortunately. But it may be the most useful form of multiscreening for marketers. Essentially, content on one device triggers an urge for more research, which takes the user to another device.

tv advertising multi screening

Add in a visit to Yelp to find reviews and maybe a coupon finding site, and the pizza example above becomes a prime illustration of investigative spider-webbing. As you can see above, TV advertising is likely the best way to break into this multiscreening path, since multiscreeners are more open to TV advertising than any other form and consumers are most likely to use another device while they’re watching a show or movie. That said, the possibilities are fairly endless. To spark the investigative urge, make sure your ads include a very strong CTA.

quantum pathway multiscreeningQuantum Pathway

In addition to having a super-cool name, the quantum pathway offers an excellent way to guide a user towards your product or service. Microsoft noted that users follow the quantum pathway when they use screens for device-specific purposes to help them fulfil a task.

Context is key for the quantum pathway, because you need to know when, why, and how consumers use their devices for different purposes. Since we’re already on the pizza track (what can I say, it’s lunch time), let’s look at that example on the quantum pathway. First, the spark: a TV pizza ad. Then the tablet comes out to locate a restaurant nearby – this is where you’d want to launch your location- or time-specific promotions. Finally, the smartphone comes out to make the call, or to get GPS-based directions.

Social Spider-Webbingsocial web multiscreening

Finally, social spider-webbing – the least common, but still frequently used, with 39% of consumers following this multiscreen path. This is basically the social media version of investigative spider-webbing. where shared social content encourages users to pursue the idea further and comment, share, or like.

From an advertising perspective, this means timeliness (two-thirds of tablet and smartphone users get their news recommendations from social networks) and share-worthy content, not to mention a significant social media presence. After all, the more friends and shares you have, the further your content will go, and the more consumers will see it. Of course, don’t forget a strong CTA to get results from your social campaign!

Does your business take multiscreening into account when designing advertising campaigns? Share your experience in the comments section!

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Beans graduated from Smith College in 2011 with a BA in History of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, and has worked as a farmer, a cook on a food truck, and an archival assistant. Outside of writing and editing for CEM, Beans enjoys reading voraciously, watching space documentaries, and baking vegan treats. Currently, Beans lives in Salt Lake City, UT.

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