The Digital Signage Insider

The Role of Digital Signage and DOOH in a Multi-Screen World

Published on: 2012-10-05

I was planning to take this week off from blogging when Aurora Dynamic's Michael Arnett emailed me some thoughts about Google's recent study of what they're calling the "multi-screen world." Considering that the search giant recently indicated that they'd be downplaying the importance of ad clicks (at least on mobile devices) in favor of more elaborate ways of tracking customer purchase behavior, Michael's analysis of what this all means for the digital signage industry seemed especially well-timed. I added a few thoughts of my own (in italics) to his analysis, but I think the heavy-lifting with regard to how to best use this information will be left to you.

A few weeks ago, Google released the results of their multi-screen study (PDF link) that was undertaken in partnership with Sterling Brands and Ipsos. The study summarizes the cross-platform digital screen usage of consumers, including TV, PC/laptop, Smartphone and Tablet. Their research took place in Q2 2012, and involved over 1,600 participants aged 18-64 in 3 US cities tracking nearly 8,000 hours of their own screen viewing and usage habits. While the individual results are quite granular, the overall takeaway is this: a consumer's location, time, goal and attitude had a significant effect on choosing which devices were used. As you might imagine, such a finding can have considerable implications for those of us who deploy or manage digital signage networks.

What kinds of behavior did the Multiscreen World survey uncover?

One of Google's prime objectives in this study was to gain a deeper understanding of a consumer's daily media behavior with respect to using multiple screens to accomplish their tasks. In typical Google fashion, emphasis was also placed on learning of a consumer's online user search practices over various devices. While the above-linked report is full of detailed results, these are the ones that stood out to me:

On-screen Media vs. Other
  • 90% of all media interactions are screen-based
  • The other 10% involve traditional print sources + radio
In short, consumers are exposed to far more screen-based messages than non screen-based ones, which makes sense when you consider the raw size of the TV viewing audience, and that those who report watching less TV today than 5 years ago have almost universally traded those TV-viewing hours for just-as-ad-laden Internet viewing hours.
Sequential Screen Usage
  • 90% use multiple screens sequentially to accomplish a task over time (i.e. use one screen then graduate to another)
  • 98% moved between devices that same day
  • Social networking is the 2nd largest screen activity (72%) after browsing the Net (81%). Shopping online was the 3rd (67%).
  • Smartphones are the most common place for starting online activities (65%), although more complex activities are started on a PC/laptop
When you consider that a) by the end of 2012 over 50% of US cellphone users will own a smartphone, and b) Facebook just announced their billionth user (that's billion with a 'B'), none of the above results should be surprising.
Simultaneous Screen Usage
  • 81% use Smartphone and TV at same time
  • 66% use Smartphone & PC at same time
  • 66% use PC and TV at same time
  • Internet Browsing (44%) and Social Networking (42%) are the second and third most frequent activities performed during simultaneous usage, after e-mailing (60%)
  • Most simultaneous multi-screen usage involves multi-tasking (78%)
  • 92% use PC and Smartphone at the same time to do different things
  • The balance of simultaneous usage is complementary (22%)
  • 36% use PC and Smartphone to do related things
This is probably one of the newer behaviors uncovered and targeted by this survey. Multiple devices are used simultaneously, with smartphones being the most frequently used companion devices. While I can understand using a smartphone and a TV at the same time (since the former is interactive and the latter typically is not), I personally don't see the point of using a laptop and smartphone at the same time. I'd have to guess that it's largely for photo taking/sharing purposes, or maybe SMS texting people who can't be reached via IM.
TV as Source of Search Inspiration
  • 77% of TV viewers use another device at the same time in a typical day
  • TV inspires online searches on other devices
  • 17% of TV viewers conducted an online search after seeing a TV commercial
From the previous set of results we know full well that most TV viewers are no longer giving their full attention to the program that they're watching. It seems like we could stand to learn a lot more about what the true nature of the relationship between TV "inspiration" and actual conducted searches is, though.
Online Shopping Spontaneity
  • Most online purchases, regardless of screen type, are unplanned
  • 81% of all online purchases made by Smartphone are unplanned
  • 58% of all online purchases made by PC/laptop are unplanned
The deck is stacked a bit in the above examples, since a 99-cent ringtone from your cell carrier and a $2,500 TV from both count as purchases, even though one is far more likely to be bought on impulse than the other. Even so, it's clear that the frictionless commerce provided by various Internet outlets has been a boon for those who rely on unplanned purchases.
What does this mean for the DOOH industry?

All that said, what lessons can we logically extrapolate from these results? From my perspective, even though the Google study didn't explicitly focus on digital out-of-home networks, the data does implicitly support what many of us have been championing for some time now:
  • Viewers/users have already migrated toward practicing cross-platform convergence.
  • Consumer smart phone usage and, with that, hands-on Internet accessibility, should be leveraged by digital screen marketers at the point of maximum sales influence (or virtually anywhere for that matter).
  • Using effective call-to-actions in your digital screen ads that reference other screen channels is likely to yield follow-ups, immediate or otherwise, from viewers, and generate further exposure to your brand.
  • Leveraging social media in your digital screen messaging is likely to engage a number of additional viewers.
  • Those who place ads and build campaigns need to be cognizant that traditional media channels are increasingly competing for viewer attention.
  • Digital screen messages that encourage viewers to follow-up online could yield a surprisingly high number of impulse online purchases.
  • The presence of digital signs and interactive touchscreens are consistent with today's multi-screen, digital media consumer habits and expectations.
Michael Arnett is an independent consultant focusing on sales and business development within the digital signage space. His company, Aurora Dynamic, is based in Montreal. (Aurora Dynamic is not affiliated with WireSpring.)

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