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MBPT Spotlight: Microsoft Research Offers Clues On Why Consumers Jump From Screen To Screen

Microsoft clients have been given a glimpse of some valuable information; namely, company research aimed at helping them best connect with consumers on various screens. Another advantage: The information is platform agnostic, so it doesn’t advocate a particular screen or try to get marketers to move money into Microsoft ad vehicles such as Xbox.

Rather, the report’s purpose is to help educate marketers on how to most effectively use every screen—including linear TV—by offering data that enables them to understand why consumers move from screen to screen.

“We sense a frustration on the part of marketers, agency creative and media planners and buyers who are trying to master this new multiscreen world,” says Natasha Hritzuk, senior director of global consumer insights at Microsoft. “Today, there are more screens and more ways to reach consumers than ever before but marketers are just not taking full advantage of them.”

Hritzuk says most marketers believe they should be moving dollars into digital so they come up with a generic “digital strategy,” but many have not dug deep enough to know how to most effectively reach the specific consumers they want to reach digitally.

“Instead of a platform strategy, marketers need a consumer strategy,” Hritzuk says. “Marketers need to know why consumers move to the different screens, what is motivating them to do it. Knowing that will make it easier to decide who and how to target.”

Hritzuk says the big buzzword right now is “mobile strategy,” yet “having a mobile strategy may not be right for your brand. Maybe just TV is good, or maybe just reaching consumers via tablet. Marketers have to understand consumers and why they move to different screens on a deeper level.”

She says because linear TV is still the primary screen for most consumers, marketers can learn how to use TV advertising to spur consumer moves to other screens where they can then also reach them.

“One of our mandates is to think about the broader media ecosystem,” Hritzuk says. “We want to take a broad view and be real partners for our clients. We want to educate them on why consumers are using other screens. We’re not anti-TV or pro-digital. TV still plays a critical role for marketers. It’s the first screen that opens up pathways to other screens. We need to show marketers how they can use TV to drive viewers to other screens with a reason or purpose.”

She says after marketers have a deeper understanding of consumer motivation to use other screens, discussions can then begin about how Microsoft products might be used as ad vehicles.

The Right Pathways
As for the research, Microsoft has identified four multiscreen pathways and the motivations that drive consumers to the various screens. The four pathways are labeled (1) Content Grazing; (2) Investigative Spider-Webbing; (3) Social Spider-Webbing; and (4) Quantum.

“It’s critical that marketers take a holistic view of their content strategy, one where they pivot to the consumer need that drives the multiscreen behavior, while also adjusting content to fit the context of each screen,” says a Microsoft report, “Cross-Screen Engagement: Multiscreen Pathways Reveal New Opportunities For Marketers to Reach and Engage Consumers,” which serves as the major source for the research. “Because consumers are connected for nearly all their waking hours, marketers should tailor their messaging throughout the day, shifting from the traditional primetime promotions to meeting consumers in their moment.”

Of the four pathways, Content Grazing is the most common pathway used by consumers. Content Grazing is when consumers use two or more screens simultaneously to access separate or unrelated content. It is the most habit-forming pathway and can even be a distracting behavior, taking attention away from the original screen.

Investigative Spider-Webbing occurs when consumers view related content on two or more screens or devices at the same time. This is where consumers seek information or content that complements and amplifies the primary screen experience.

Social Spider-Webbing occurs when consumers begin social conversations while watching TV, particularly while watching live events.

Finally, Quantum occurs when consumers begin an activity on one screen and then leave that screen and continue the activity on another.

The research digs into why consumers take each of those pathways to the other screens. For example, 47% of content grazers say they use a second screen for unrelated content while simultaneously still watching the first screen because it’s a “habit,” while 31% say they do it to use time more efficiently. Meanwhile, 21% percent say they do it to “stay in the loop” or to “not miss something,” while 21% say they switch to another screen to kill time during boring parts of a TV show.

The report also goes into detail as to why consumers who content-graze use specific other screens. And it offers the same detailed descriptions for each of the other pathways to give marketers a clearer picture of why consumers jump from screen to screen.

The research also delves into consumer reactions to multiscreen advertising.

“Multiscreening consumers are open to advertising, yet it’s clear that this openness varies depending on how and where the content is delivered,” the report says. “Consumers have a lower tolerance for advertising on mobile phones, where the device demands more intimate and personal content. Similarly, consumers tend to be sensitive to interruptive advertising on gaming consoles.”

The research found consumers are most open to advertising on TV (76%), the computer (57%) and the tablet (51%). Only 39% of consumers welcome ads on gaming consoles and 37% are receptive to advertising on mobile phones.

That said, 87% of consumers said of multiple screens, “It’s great that I can check out products or brands that interest me whenever or wherever I see them.” It’s a line that proves Hritzuk’s point: Marketers need to not just reach consumers on the various screens, but reach them in a way they want to be reached.

The report provides suggestions to marketers on the types of advertising that will appeal to the emotions of consumers using the various screens.

The report concludes by stating, “While many tech and media companies conduct market research that describes what consumers are doing, the Microsoft Advertising Consumer Insights team believes innovation stems from getting at the why. As a result, we go beyond behavior to focus on why consumers do what they do—whether it’s choosing one brand over another, or exhibiting preference for a specific platform. Our goal is to create more robust insights-driven narratives that reveal the people behind the data, making it easier for clients to tell creative, relevant and connected stories across platforms.”