Although U.S. consumers are exposed to more Web-connected devices than ever before, they actually report spending less time online, according to new research from Forrester.
How is that possible? For modern consumers, the lines between everyday life and "going online" are simply blurring, according to Gina Sverdlov, an analyst at Forrester.
"Given the various types of connected devices that U.S. consumers own, many people are connected and logged on (automatically) at all times," according to Sverdlov.
As such, consumers no longer consider some of the online activities they perform -- i.e., going on Facebook -- to be activities related to "using the Internet."
“It’s only when consumers are actively doing a specific task, like search, that they consider this to be time that they’re spending online,” Sverdlov explains.
How do all the devices consumers now own play together? “We found that the user experience defines device preference,” said Sverdlov, citing the research she did with fellow Forrester colleague Samantha Jaddou.
“For example, the majority of U.S online consumers still rely on their main computer (either a laptop or a desktop) to perform serious online tasks, such as shopping, banking, or booking travel -- even when they have access to a smartphone or a tablet.”
Engaging with social media is the only activity where tablet owners are equally likely to use their tablet or their mobile phone. Even then, the laptop remains the No. 1 device of choice, Sverdlov notes. She also found that social activities have become so dominant that they are actually cannibalizing other online activities.
According to Forrester's 2012 Technographics surveys of over 58,000 U.S. online adults, 70% now visit social networking sites regularly, while 59% watch video from other users -- 12 and 11 percentage points more, respectively, than just two years ago.
Online activities that have “dipped” this year include posting to photo-sharing sites or adding labels or tags to online photos, as both activities can now be done on social networking sites.
Going forward, Forrester expects that online penetration among the total population will continue to grow slowly, reaching 83% by 2016.