cat and mouse chase

With the exponential adoption of hand-held devices, there’s no doubt we are going through a fundamental change in the way we interact with media. The term “multimedia” no longer reflects the nature of our information consumption patterns across multiple screens – be it TV and smartphone, TV and tablet, TV and PC, or all of these taken together.

Instead, pundits argue, we should be talking about “hypermedia” – a concept which stands for the fluid, connected and fragmentary user experience that the proliferation of multiple screens has given rise to. But how do these developments affect consumer expectations? And how are marketers responding to the multi-screen challenge?

People are keen to interact with brands

Mobile industry figures demonstrate that users not only consume content across different devices but they are also keen to actively participate in discussions or otherwise engage with branded mobile content:

  • 24% of users “multiscreen” more than once a day and 51% of tablet owners use their handheld devices while watching television (Internet World 2012).
  • 47% of tablet owners have used a mobile device to respond to something on the screen and 28% have downloaded an application that’s related to a show they watch (The Multi-Screen Marketer, Econsultancy)
  • The number of mobile ad impressions being served to non-phone devices is increasing (Millennial Media’s Q1 2012 Mobile Mix report).

These statistics point to consumers’ rising expectations of receiving connected content that flows easily and naturally from one device to another.

The challenge of the ‘ultimate screen’

Despite the fact there are positive indications of consumers’ willingness to engage with brands, marketers appear to be playing catch-up with their ever-migrating audiences. According to The Multi-screen Marketer report by Econsultancy, consumers are often dissatisfied with the mobile sites and apps they download from businesses, with 72% saying it’s common or very common that apps from businesses aren’t worth downloading, and that business websites don’t work well on mobile devices.

It looks like, although they recognise the importance of developing a cross-screen marketing strategy, businesses still grapple with its implementation due to the lack of technical or creative solutions.

The solution: Creating powerful bespoke user experiences through engaging content

The multi-screen revolution opens up unequalled opportunities for actively engaging with consumers. But depending on the execution, creating cross-screen user experiences can be either a boon or a bane for businesses. It is not hard to imagine why meeting consumer demands for getting the right kind of content at the right place and the right time is a challenge from a technical perspective.

Another aspect of cross-platform marketing that businesses have yet to master is the art of creating powerful, emotional user experiences. What advertisers have already managed to achieve for TV, marketers now have to achieve for the second (and the third) screen, but while the TV experience is passive (watching), the second screen requires compelling content that users can actively engage and interact with.

According to Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft UK, there has long been a misconception among marketers about what screen convergence actually is. In an interview for Brightfire Dave Coplin said that rather than providing the same experience on different screens, brands should be looking to offer the right content on the right device with the view to “augmenting the experience, building on top of it, rather than trying to duplicate what the show’s doing.”

The practice of providing multi-screen content is in its infancy, so for businesses and brands to be going through a period of trial and error seems quite in the order of things. Once they’ve got the hang of it, however, they’ll have found the key to consumers’ hearts and minds.

Image credit: Jeroen Moes on Flickr/Creative Commons

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