We Are Livin’ in a Multi-Screen World, and I am a Multi-Screen Girl!

Let’s face it; we’re a nation of Multi-Screeners. Most of our time is spent in front of some sort of screen. I bet that before you clicked on this blog, you were surfing the net and occasionally checking your phone for texts from your special someone (alas, it was from your mom). Even further, last night you were probably watching TV with your computer on your lap while on Facebook, emailing, or both. There’s no escape – screens are everywhere these days!

Have you ever thought about how this might affect your searching behavior? I’ll admit, I didn’t think about this until I recently saw a study from Google that focused on consumer behavior in conjunction with screens & devices.

Google conducted this study in two phases:

  1. Qualitative: participants kept mobile text diaries and Google performed in-home interviews.
  2. Quantitative: participants logged each screen-related interaction over a 24 hour period. Additionally, participants were given an online survey to understand the behavioral relationship with digital devices and activities he or she performed.

The goal was to understand how using multiple screens affect the way we search to complete our goals. The study finds that on average, we spend 4.4 hours a day of our leisure time in front of screens. This time is spread between four different devices:

  1. Smartphones
  2. Tablets
  3. PC/Laptops
  4. Televisions

How do we decide which devices to use when searching? That depends on a few factors. How much time do we have? What are we trying to do? Where are we? What mood are we in? Here’s how the data collected describes usage of these devices:

  • Smartphones tend to act like our security blankets. They are always with us, and keep us informed when we need information quickly.  Ex: Big game on TV and you’re out? ESPN’s mobile app keeps you updated.
  • PCs/Laptops keep us productive, and are often associated with research and work.  Ex: Planning a South American backpacking adventure? You’re probably not going to use your phone for this task.
  • Tablets are associated with leisure & relaxing activities. Ex: Going to a wedding in a few weeks? You might start dress shopping on your tablet.

Even though each device has its own mood or purpose associated, we almost always use more than one at a time to complete a task. There are two ways in which this occurs:

  1. Sequential Usage – moving from one device to another at different times
  2. Simultaneous Usage – using more than one device at the same time

On average, we’re using at least 3 screens a day. The most common combinations are smartphone and television, smartphone and PC/laptop, or PC/laptop and television. The most popular device that is correlated with any search behavior is the smartphone. In fact, 57% of the time we’re using a smart phone, we’re also using another device.

How does this affect the way we search? Seeing an engaging ad on one screen entices us to research it further on another. Let’s say you’re basking on the couch, enjoying the most recent episode of Dancing With the Stars. A commercial comes on for Rosetta Stone and you’re curious about how it works and how much it costs. You pull out your phone, Google it, and browse around the site. Later that week, you go directly to the site and purchase so you can become fluent in Spanish. You can see the path to conversion was TV -> phone -> Laptop/PC. Es loco, no?!

After reading this study, I actually tried this on myself. I counted the number of times I used my laptop and phone simultaneously, and how I transferred from device to device throughout the day. Here are a few examples illustrating this behavior:

  • A friend sent me an email about a LivingSocial deal that I checked out on my phone. After looking at it, I decided I wanted to buy it. A few hours later, I opened up the LivingSocial deal on my laptop and purchased. Bam! Sequential usage at its finest
  • Later that evening, I turned on a hockey game. While sitting with my laptop on the couch, I Googled my favorite team’s schedule to look for tickets. There you have it – simultaneous usage (and go Sharks!)

Now that we understand how and why we use multiple devices, how does this affect advertisers? More importantly, how can paid search managers translate this information into success for clients?

  • These instances of multi-screen usage offer advertisers more opportunities to engage with consumers throughout the day.
    • For example, 65% of consumers start searching on a smartphone, and 61% of those users continue research or accomplish goals on a PC/laptop. Hence, two chances of capturing consumers via search. Make sure you’re advertising on mobile and tablets!
    • Advertisers can tailor ad strategies to consumers at different points in the buying funnel and on different devices.
      • Advertisers should reflect the needs of a consumer based on the device through ad text, as well as create different goals for each.
      • Mobile smartphones initiate a majority of search traffic. Advertising on mobile networks will be huge for finding new consumers via multiple device behaviors.
        • Make a mobile site, and make the path to conversion easy and navigable for searchers to research and ultimately convert.

Testing these ideas is a great opportunity for expansion and consumer engagement to your brand. Especially with Google’s shift to enhanced campaigns, mobile and tablet advertising will become a more important part of search in the future. The more we can understand about screens and consumer behavior, the better we’ll be at targeting and achieving overall goals.

Happy Screening!

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