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Multiple Screens Make Consumers Jugglers: Google Study

5 Sep, 2012 By: Doug McPherson

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – Picture the average consumer juggling a computer, a smartphone, a tablet and a TV and you have a good snapshot of the way they handle media, according to a new study from Google.

While TV still dominates American’s leisure time, it no longer claims their full attention. Now TV is sharing time simultaneously with other screens. Case in point: 77 percent of the time, users are either using a smartphone or a PC while watching the tube.

The study, done with market analysts Ipsos and Sterling Brands, Google’s “The New Multi-Screen World: Understanding Cross-platform Consumer Behavior” found that U.S. consumers spent 90 percent of all their media consumption – about 4.4 hours per day – on popular electronic gadgets at the expense of more traditional media including radio, newspaper, and magazines.

Google identifies two types of screen use: sequential and simultaneous. The former, more common, typically occurs over the same day. Some 98 percent of people move between devices in the same day to accomplish a task.

Search connects consumer experiences across screens. Some 78 percent of consumers simultaneously multitask using several devices. The study reveals that 92 percent use PC and smartphone or TV and PC, where as 90 percent use TV and smartphone, and 89 percent prefer TV and tablet.

The takeaway? Brands should start targeting ads on multiple devices simultaneously to make the most of advertising budgets. The change in consumer behavior suggests a need for brands to consider retargeting across multiple devices, as well as an attribution strategy to determine paths to conversion based on the devices that specific types of consumers might use.

Google’s study suggests that 67 percent of shoppers move from one screen to another, taking multiple-device paths to purchase. While 65 percent start on a smartphone, 61 percent continue on a PC or laptop and 4 percent with a tablet.

Smartphones are the most common starting place, but PCs are the starting point for complex activities, and tablets are the starting place for shopping and planning trips. Of the 25 percent of consumers who start on a PC or laptop, 19 percent continue on to a smartphone and 5 percent on to a tablet. For the 11 percent who start on a tablet, 10 percent continue on to a PC or laptop.

Smartphones attract spontaneity, with 81 percent admitting to being grabbed by a purchase in the spur of the moment versus 19 percent planned. About 59 percent of people that will participate in any part of the shopping process on a smartphone while in the home versus 41 percent out of the home. Some 84 percent of consumers on a PC or a laptop will shop while in the home versus 16 percent out of the home.

Even before the purchase, Google’s research shows that more consumers search for information about products and services across devices. Those with mobile devices search for information triggered by events, locations and physical items, but Google’s study suggests that consumers search more often for things seen on TV. Respondents could choose more than one option when asked what prompted them to do a search.

The net number, 22 percent, of people said television prompted a search on smartphones compared with 17 percent seeing a commercial on TV, and 7 percent seeing a TV program. When it comes to searches on PC and laptops, TV contributed 10 percent, whereas TV commercials and programs each contributed 6 percent.

Most consumers accomplish goals through “spontaneous vs. planned search” activities. On a smartphone, 20 percent of searches are planned versus 80 percent that are spontaneous. On a PC or laptop, those results change to 48 percent and 52 percent, respectively.

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