Couch Surfers As Keen On MCommerce As Their Soap's Plot Line

We all do it, and now research conducted for the IAB UK by Sparkler shows two things. Second screen is actually joint screening because the device in our hand is as important to us as the screen in the corner, and that importance carries on whether the programme we're watching is showing or it's the ad break.

So the figures show that 70% of us Brits will routinely use a second device while watching television, and this rises to very nearly nine in ten among 16- to-34-year-olds. There are no prizes for guessing that the primary use of the device is checking emails (34%), instant messaging and texting (31%) and online shopping (25%). What's more, we spend around 60% of the time we're watching television not actually watching television, but chatting or checking a device.

Tim Elkington, the IAB’s chief strategy officer, announces: “Second screening is ingrained to such a degree that all screens are now equal, there’s no hierarchy, only fragmentation of attention -- actually switch-screening is a much more accurate term. Furthermore, entertainment is only a small part of the living room media activity. It’s now a multifunctional space where people jump between individual and group activities, be it shopping, social media, emails, work or messaging.” 

The second part of the research is, for me, the more interesting. We probably already all know there are a lot of people on digital devices watching the tv and checking up on emails, messaging and shopping online. The truly interesting part is that they are doing this during a show as much as they are during the ad breaks.

There's a preconceived notion that second screening happens during ad breaks. It chimes perfectly with stories about the National Grid having to pump up the power supply during an ad break in Coronation Street or when England reaches a major sporting final (not much chance of that recently!).

The IAB UK research shows that levels of digital activity are pretty constant across a show and its regular ad breaks, so we're not actually all waiting for the ads to see if work has dropped us an email or if a friend has posted some more cute kittens on Facebook.

So let's think about the implications. Marketers may well be thinking that the best time to launch an email campaign is late morning but, maybe, just maybe, there's a whole generation of sofa surfers who are primed and ready for something to land in their inbox even if they're watching their favourite soap or drama. It sounds counterintuitive, doesn't it? There may just be an untapped connection there with people marketers think are watching the television but are actually waiting for something to drop in to their email inbox. The same applies to Snapchat, recently opened up to brand messages.

Let's have another think. One in four second-screeners are shopping online. So if 90% of Millennials routinely second-screen, that means between a fifth or a quarter of Millennials are not just receiving messages -- they are open to act on them because they actively want to go shopping online while the tv blares away in the background. As a national average, the same applies, but the proportion goes down to around between one in five or the one in six mark.

The big takeaway has to be that if you were thinking the population is only receptive to the typical email drop during the day and they're too busy watching "EastEnders" to buy a pair of shoes, think again. There's a massive market of people checking their digital device for something new and they're keen to go shopping on that device while they find out in the background who's leaving who for whom in their favourite soap.

If this doesn't sound like a massive opportunity, it really should.

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