Microsoft Highlights Usage Across Device 'Pathways'

Collage-Phone-Laptop-Tablets-AFor marketers, one of the challenges of the mobile revolution has been capturing awareness as consumers increasingly divide their attention across multiple devices. Figuring out how people are using mobile phones, tablets, PCs and TV in combination is therefore key to shaping advertising and marketing based on usage patterns.

To that end, Microsoft has released a new study focused on why people are using multiple devices and what motivates simultaneous or sequential use across screens. Partnering with Flamingo Research and Ipsos OTX, the company surveyed some 3,000 people in five markets -- Australia, Brazil, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. 

"While marketers once generated content to fit manufactured and static advertising placements, consumers now control their own flow of content -- from day to night, and from screens large and small,” stated Natasha Hritzuk, senior global director of research and insights at Microsoft Advertising, in a blog post today.

With that in mind, the report outlines four “pathways” that describe how people are interacting with media across devices:

Content Grazing:  This is the most common type of behavior, with 68% of consumers using two or more screens simultaneously to access unrelated content -- for example, someone watching a show on TV while also checking email on their PC and texting a friend on their mobile phone.

Investigative Spider-Webbing:  More than half (57%) of consumers fall into this category defined by content-driven investigation across devices, either to get more information or for pure exploration. That might include watching a movie on TV and looking up what other movies an actor has been in via tablet or PC.

Quantum Journey:  This pathway, pursued by 46%, is focused on task completion. Each screen separately takes someone closer to achieving their goal. For example, reading a restaurant review on a tablet, then checking its rating on Yelp via PC before using a mapping app to get to the venue.

Social Spider-Webbing:  Consumers in this instance (39%) are extroverted and focused on sharing content and connecting with others across devices -- beating your friend’s high score for a game on your Xbox, for instance, and then using Skype or other social channels to brag about the triumph to friends.

Hritzuk said the behavioral frameworks identified can serve as a starting point to guide marketers’ media buying and planning across platforms. With its new Windows 8 platform, Surface tablets and Windows Phone-powered handsets, Microsoft has a vested interest in serving up media and advertising smoothly across devices.

In that vein, the company offers several tips on how marketers can use its products to tailor campaigns. To offer a seamless cross-platform experience, for instance, Microsoft suggests using SkyDrive for cloud storage and delivering content through apps like Xbox SmartGlass, which powers second-screen use on phones and tablets.

“Marketers can get much richer about how they drive brands around content,’ said Hritzuk. 

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