The boundaries between television, smartphones, tablets, and computers have become increasingly blurred. In fact, a study carried out by Google last year found that 90 percent of customers are moving between different devices to accomplish a goal, whether it's doing research or completing a purchase. Let's take one scenario. You're watching television in the morning and are intrigued by a commercial for a new flash sale site. You pick up your tablet and search for the site, registering for an account. A few minutes later, you open the welcome email on your smartphone and download the app, using it to browse and put items you like in the cart. Wanting to see the items on a bigger screen, you open the website on your laptop and finalize the purchase.
Does this sound familiar? For many customers this process has become second nature, something that we don't even think about. We move from one screen to the next seamlessly, as if each one is simply an extension of the other. Many times, it is.
And savvy organizations are recognizing that this behavior has become the norm among multi-device owners, and are searching for ways to leverage this phenomenon. As Daniel Danker, chief product officer at Shazam, notes, the second screen is giving brands and marketers an unprecedented opportunity to engage with their customers in a meaningful way, extending their 30-second ad buys into minutes of interaction. "The best thing is that the second screen isn't a cookie cutter solution," Danker explains. Instead, different industry verticals can aim for completely different results. Danker uses the example of a recent collaboration between Shazam and Jaguar for the launch of the new F-TYPE car. "When people Shazamed the ad, they could use their phones or tablets to see a 360-degree view of the interior and exterior, rev the engine, and get more information about the car." The initiative gave viewers a different perspective of the car, something they weren't able to see on television.
While many marketers are aware of the opportunities of leveraging the second screen, Jeannette Kocsis, senior executive vice president for digital engagement at The Agency Inside Harte Hanks, believes that they're not truly leveraging its potential. "They'd better get with the new mobile program or find a new career," she stresses.
Sequential and simultaneous multi-screen use
Google's research notes that customers are using multiple screens in two ways-sequentially by moving from one device to the other to complete a single goal, as seen in the example above, and by using multiple devices at the same time. The vast majority of people-nine out of 10-use multiple screens in a sequential manner with smartphones being the most common starting point. Further, Google found that 98 percent of sequential screeners will complete a task using multiple screens in the same day. Google also found that 77 percent of television viewers use a second device at the same time, conducting simultaneous searches inspired by what they see on television.
This means that organizations can no longer afford to focus on one device to reach out to their customers and prospects. Instead, they need to make sure that they're offering a seamless and continuous experience across devices, allowing customers to choose how to conduct their buying journeys. Movie and television promoters, for example, have embraced the second screen phenomenon and are using it as a way to further engage with audiences. Just last month Disney encouraged moviegoers attending The Little Mermaid Second Screen Live to take their iPads, download a special app, and watch the movie "on the big screen like you never have before," allowing viewers "to become part of the story." The app allows movie goers to play games, find hidden treasure, and sing along with the characters. "We are seeing a revolution in the way we see the main screen," notes Dave Stubenvoll, CEO of Wowza Media Systems.
The second screen-a threat or an opportunity?
As Bill Clifford, chief revenue officer at SessionM, notes, usage of the second screen can be seen as either a threat or an opportunity. On one hand, marketers might argue that customers using a second screen while watching television are not giving the TV program, or more importantly commercials, their full attention. In this case, multiple screen use can be a threat to getting the message across.
But the second school of thought looks at the second screen as an opportunity to allow audiences to engage more deeply with the television content through other media, for example by leveraging social interactions. The advantage of a second screen experience is the ability to tailor it to individual customers. Television advertisements are geared to the masses and therefore tend to be generic. But when an interested customer uses a second screen to drill further into the message, marketers have the opportunity to really personalize the experience. "We can't manage television, but we can manage the second screen experience," Stubenvoll says.
However, John Strabley, senior manager for strategy and analytics at Quaero, warns marketers to be cautious not to enter into the realm of the intrusive. "Explicit personalization needs to be done in a manner where there is clear benefit to the viewer," he notes. He recommends using implicit personalization, for example Pizza Hut uses geo-location data to automatically route a viewer to his local branch where he can take advantage of a special offer. In order not to appear intrusive, marketers need to provide customers with value. "Think like customers-what do they want to see on their phones?" stresses Kocsis. Marketers should ask customers what they want and then observe and honor what customers do.
As RJ Talyor, vice president of mobile products at ExactTarget, notes, marketers can leverage multiple screens to carry out coordinated campaigns over the various media. This requires integrating content and the feeling across different devices, turning them into one single experience. For example, a television viewer might be prompted to open a brand's mobile app and expects this to be an extension of what he's just seen on television.
Leveraging the power of social
The first adopters started leveraging the second screen phenomenon by directing their viewers to social media pages, encouraging them to join in the conversation about a television program they're watching, allowing them to engage with other viewers and creating a conversation that goes beyond geographical boundaries. "NBC Universal cable networks, like USA, Bravo, and Sci-Fi, have really embraced this, integrating Twitter and native co-viewing experiences directly into their broadcasts," Clifford notes. HBO's The Newsroom, for example, encourages viewers to check in on Facebook to earn stickers and gives a sneak peak of upcoming episodes on the social network.
For marketers, the second screen not only extends the impact of their message, but can be used to further extend their messages to the right audiences. As Clifford explains, brands tell their stories through television commercials. "The second screen can be instrumental in extending those stories or starting a conversation with customers that can ultimately lead to a sale," he says.
As ExactTarget's Talyor notes, by encouraging viewers to engage with brands beyond the television screen, organizations have the opportunity to understand who is interested in their products and services. Further, social media provides companies with a wealth of information about individual customers, not only demographic data, but also about their likes and habits. Further, marketers are given a glimpse into further customer information that can be used to target individuals. For example, by encouraging viewers to connect with the brand over social media, companies not only have access to customers' social graphs, but can leverage their enthusiasm about the brand to extend the impact of a commercial to their friends. This information allows companies to really personalize the message, thus making it more impactful.
Understanding the limitations of the second screen
Quaero's John Strabley highlights the importance that marketers who are intent on leveraging the second screen first understand its limitations. First of all, they need to keep in mind that not all customers using a second screen want to be engaged in complementary content. "A significant amount of second screen use is more for multi-tasking over email, chat, and social networks than it is for multi-consumption," he notes. Therefore, marketers need to make sure that their efforts are not intrusive.
Secondly, marketers should be aware that broadcasters and cable companies will not want to partner with those looking to deliver messages or engagement opportunities that will divert viewers from the television program they're watching.
Strabley notes that awareness and brand building campaign studies have shown that ad recall is much higher when the second screen has been used to complement a television commercial. "Certain campaigns that are geared to drive social buzz have benefitted from the use of the second screen and enabling social sharing and integration," he notes. Further, when the objective is an immediate call to action, marketers have seen an increase in direct response activity by making it easier for viewers to complete the transaction "right from their couch" without the need to pick up the phone, remember a lengthy URL, or search the web for the site.
Finally, a second screen experience allows marketers to really measure the success, or otherwise, of their campaigns. By syncing content, organizations can better understand which campaigns are striking a chord, and be able to really drill into the interested demographics. This will allow them to target these audiences more effectively. Shazam's Danker notes that the organization recently launched the Shazam Engagement Rate which helps companies better understand not only when people see their ads, but also when they are most receptive and interested in these advertisements. "This can help fine-tune their campaigns, whether it's looking at which creative is best received, or on what channel or time of day," Danker notes, adding that the second screen delivers this kind of intelligence because it reflects active participation and engagement on the part of the viewer.