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The New Multi-Screen World: Understanding Consumer Behaviour

According to a recent Google study, "90% of people move between devices to accomplish a goal, whether that’s on smartphones, PCs, tablets or TV."

We have become a nation of multi-screen users.

The Google study is one of the largest and best-sourced research projects we've found that adds data to the multi-screen phenomena that has been growing over the past few years.

The full study is embedded at the bottom of this post for you to review and also available as a PDF.

To help highlight some of the most important findings, we've also summarized the key findings below.

Smartphones lead in interactions

The smartphone is the most common starting place for all online activities.

Smartphones are the backbone of our daily media interactions. They have the highest number of user interactions per day and serve as the most common starting point for activities across multiple screens

It's the first device people reach for and it's the device that most commonly binds together multi-screen interactions – bridging users' experiences between tablets, PC / laptops and TVs.

But smartphone interactions are short. The average time spent per interaction on a smartphone was the shortest of any device type at 17 minutes.

So smartphone users are focused and need information fast. As the report notes, the device we choose is driven by context and the smartphone is the device that is most widely distributed and most readily available.

Multi-screen is Sequential and Simultaneous

Multi-screen usage has 2 key modes of usage: sequential and simultaneous.

  • Sequential – a user moves from one device to another in pursuit of a single goal
  • Simultaneous – a user is engaged with multiple devices at the same time

As Google reports:

We found that nine out of ten people use multiple screens sequentially and that smartphones are by far the most common starting point for sequential activity. So completing a task like booking a flight online or managing personal finances doesn’t just happen in one sitting on one device. In fact, 98% of sequential screeners move between devices in the same day to complete a task.

Sequential usage makes it imperative that businesses help customers start their experience on one device and easily bridge it to other devices through features like saving in their cart or account.

One Web is Paramount for Success

A One Web approach is of paramount importance in a multi-screen world.

The W3C recommended a One Web approach in 2008 and the same guidance needs to repeated and reinforced today.

When people move between devices to accomplish a single task they use the following shortcuts to connect their usage.

For search, Google recommends tactics like keyword parity to ensure your site is easily found by repeated searches.

We recommend taking that a step further and simple having website parity. This is the core of the One Web concept – the same URLs and URL structure for your website on all devices.

When someone navigates directly to your website or emails themselves a link – the second and third-most common ways of connecting their tasks – that link needs to work on every device.

People start their tasks in small moments during their day on their smartphones. They email themselves a link to complete a transaction on their laptop or tablet later in the day. That link has to work across devices. If that link from their smartphone is a mobile dead end – an link – that customer is gone.

Next Steps to Multi-channel Success

Understand the mobile user experience with its 3 modes of mobile usage. This is critical to both success in mobile and to success in a multi-screen world.

Tackle the big, hard job of multichannel attribution. It's necessary to start to understand how the general trends and patterns of behavior in studies like the Google study are consistent with or divergent from your own customers' behavior.

Talk to us if you need a One Web solution that adapts any website to any device: mobile, tablets and more.

We've been thinking about and building products for the multi-screen world for over 5 years now. The complexity of devices and of people's use of those devices is only going to increase. We're ready today to help connect you to your customers on all screens.

WebSpecter, cerebral.js, Mobify.js

Mobify.js (GitHub: mobify / mobifyjs, License: MIT, npm: mobify-client) is a new client-side web framework that aims to make it easier to adapt sites to any device. This includes responsive design techniques, but it can also be backed by a cloud service called Mobify Cloud that includes automatic image resizing, JavaScript concatenation, and a CDN. Mobify.js projects are built with Zepto and Dust.js.

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