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The rise of multi-screening
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The rise of multi-screening 

The study shows that an increasing amount of Canadians often use multiple devices for a variety of purposes, a process that is referred to as “multi-screening.” According to the findings, three-quarters of Canadians use multiple devices at once, which includes an additional 65 per cent who do so at least once a week. The results also indicated that half of respondents begin an activity on one screen, and then continue it on another.

This is of particular interest to brands and marketing firms, who are constantly searching for new ways to engage their target audiences through their mobile devices.

But what exactly has led to the rise multi-screening, and why are we doing it? The answer, says one expert, is multi-faceted.

“I think it’s because we have more options for doing it,” explains Alyson Gausby, Canadian consumer insight lead for Microsoft.

“If you think about how many connected devices you have at your disposal, it’s so much more convenient for us,” Gausby continues. “We see that Canadian consumers are consuming more media than ever before, and that’s not necessarily at the expense of traditional media. We see that the overall size of the pie, so to speak, is growing, so that means that we’re not just using our devices in isolation. The vast majority of Canadians are engaging in some form of multi-screening activity.

While it’s true that Canadians as a whole are using multiple devices today, Gausby indicates that there is one age demographic that is multi-screening more than others.

If we look at the younger age demographics, we see that 86 per cent of Canadians who are 18 to 24 years old are using two devices simultaneously,” she says. “This is one of the paths of multi-screening behaviour that we looked at in the study.”

Mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptop computers are constantly being reinvented to boost their speed, portability and value to consumers. As Gausby explains, not only have the devices themselves evolved, but so have the reasons why we rely on them.

“I think it has been an evolution, and that’s the device that we’ve seen evolve quite a lot over the last few years,” says Gausby. “If you think about what you’re using your phone for, that has definitely evolved. I remember when I had my BlackBerry about three years ago, it was mainly for texting and emailing because doing a basic Internet search was a bit painful.”

It’s no surprise that we are becoming increasingly attached to our mobile devices. Some might even argue that we’ve even developed a “love affair” of sorts with them. But today, these items have gone far beyond being our digital boyfriends or girlfriends.

“We’ve seen that archetype evolve from being your “lover,” which is about connecting and belonging, to being your caregiver or (assistant),” says Gausby. “It’s not only your tool for connecting; it’s supporting you in all sorts of different facets of your everyday life rather than your social life.

“Canadians are using their devices for so much more today,” Gausby continues. “They’re using them for searching, gaming, managing personal affairs, media… the list literally goes on and on. That’s why we’ve seen such exponential growth in mobile media consumption.”

Over the past five years, multi-screening has undergone significant growth across the country. With more devices, options and apps available on the market today, more people are getting on board with this activity.

“Intuitively, it makes sense,” Gausby says. “We have access to so many more connected devices, and as a result, we have a lot more opportunities to do it.”

Electronics developers aren’t the only ones paying attention to the multi-screening behaviours exhibited by Canadians. Brands and marketing firms have also taken notice, and are refocusing their strategies in order to create ads and products that are compatible with various types of mobile platforms.

“I think that brands and marketers need to (adopt) a customer-first approach because at the end of the day, the consumer is the common thread, and we’re the ones who are driving and connecting these different devices,” says Gausby.

“Ironically, a lot of the focus of digital advertising has still been around what a screen can do rather than what consumers actually need that screen to do, which is the reason why they’re picking (these devices) up in the first place,” she adds. “It’s about understanding the roles that each of our devices play in our lives, and really harnessing the best that they have to offer.”

We are very much into the age of the multi-screener at this point, and Gausby believes that this activity won’t show any signs of slowing down, going forward.

This type of behaviour is something that consumers wont simply stop doing, she says. “There is such a need for efficiency, where we feel like time is really at a premium. We know from a lot of the studies that (examine) marketer focus that it’s going to be a focus for brands as well.”

In addition, the evolution of mobile devices and connectivity will continue in tandem with the work that brands and marketers undertake to engage their audiences.

“I think there is this need to understand why people use each of their screens and provide content that helps them to easily achieve that goal. With all of the information and options that are available to consumers today, brands need to add value to our lives,” says Gausby.

“They are helping us in some way, whether it’s making our decisions easier, helping us to learn or find something new, or even just entertain us,” she adds. “It’s great for brands to be creating these multi-screening experiences because more touch points means they have more ways to appeal to and engage consumers. The key is to tap into what each of those screens does best to build the best possible experience for consumers.”

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