The Evolution of Cross-Screen Usage

March 17th, 2015 | Alyson Gausby, Consumer Insights Lead, Microsoft

Alyson Gausby
Alyson Gausby

Canadians are consuming more media than ever before. Although the weather as of late has made me wonder if I’m single-handedly driving up our national average with my Netflix binging, turns out that’s not the case. Canadians not only have more opportunities to consume content through the ever-expanding number of connected devices at their disposal, but they’re also no longer using their devices in isolation – nearly all Canadians engage in some form of multi-screening activity.

This makes things complicated for marketers because consumers’ screens have become more powerful than the sum of their parts. Now more than ever, their time and attention are precious. This means that with all these moving targets, brands and marketers need to be very people-centric in their approach. At the end of the day, the consumer is the common thread – they’re the ones driving and connecting all these screens.

What’s ironic is that many marketers still focus on what a screen CAN do (like search, display, video), rather than what consumers NEED their screen to do – the reason they pick up that device in the first place! This is an issue because consumers’ mindsets and needs are very different depending on what they’re doing and what screen(s) they’re reaching for.

At Microsoft, we’ve done a lot of research to understand not only how consumers use their devices and how that’s changing over time, but also how they use them to fulfill different needs and goals. Here’s the coles notes version from our 2014 study:

    MOBILE: Since this is the most personal device, brands need to connect in a meaningful or helpful way, adding value, not just interrupting.

    TABLET: Consumers grab for their tablet when they want to explore, so they’re not looking for quick and superficial experiences. Help them discover new things and dive deep into what interests them with layered content, rich media and video.

    PC: The computer owns knowledge and information and helps consumers feel smarter and better equipped to make decisions. Brands can tap into this with PC advertising that engages and facilitates analysis with helpful information, tools, or advice.

    TV: When consumers watch TV, they want to lie back and be entertained, intuitively absorbing what they’re seeing, so advertising needs to be clear and entertain them or tell emotional stories.

    GAMING CONSOLE: Consoles aren’t just for gamers anymore – they have become the entertainment hub of the modern-day home. Advertising on gaming consoles should also be interactive and appeal to consumers’ sense of fun and competition.

As you can see, one size doesn’t fit all. This means that a single creative execution pasted across a few different screens isn’t necessarily a true multi-screen campaign. But, it’s important that brands drive true multi-screen experiences because more touch points can mean more ways to appeal to and engage consumers. We have seen through our research that exposure to cross-screen campaigns significantly improves brand lift scores.

In order to drive that additive value, brands need to build campaigns that are cohesive and use a consistent voice to reinforce messaging and get the most bang for their bucks. They also need to make moving across screens as seamless as possible to avoid friction or drop off and avoid frustrating consumers.

At the same time, marketers still need to focus on targeting the appropriate screens and providing content that helps consumers more easily achieve their goals, whether that’s finding something on the fly, exploring new things, making better decisions or just providing entertaining content. Think about and tap into what each screens does best to connect with Canadians in unified, meaningful, and effective ways. Use those insights to build the best experience for consumers and meet them in that right moment.

Alyson Gausby

As Microsoft’s Canadian Consumer Insights Lead, Alyson is responsible for translating consumer intelligence into trends research to provide value for the Canadian marketplace. Alyson is a contributor to Strategy Magazine, frequent event speaker and her thought-leadership research is regularly featured at industry events as well as in the media. Prior to joining Microsoft, Alyson was Associate Director, brand & advertising research, with Ipsos UK and she has also held senior research roles with Crowd Science and comScore.