Microsoft Advertising Defines the 4 Pathways to Multi-Screening

Microsoft Advertising has identified four pathways to multi-screening in a quest to better understand the primary reasons or behaviors that drive consumers to engage with content across multiple devices. A new survey of 3,586 consumers in the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, and Australia seeks to move beyond tracking behaviors and gain deeper insights into the motivations and needs that drive those behaviors in a multi-screen world.

“The one thing I have found over time doesn’t work is when you do a lot of disconnected pieces of research that don’t sync up. We decided to shift the way we were doing behavioral research,” says Natasha Hritzuk, senior global director of research and insights at Microsoft Advertising. “So not just to move beyond the behavior and focus on the why, but to really focus on driving two core consumer insights frameworks that had relevance not just from a media planning perspective but also from a content development perspective.”

The four pathways identified by the survey - content grazing, quantum journey, investigative spider-webbing, and social spider-webbing - are certainly relevant to marketers, but consumers don’t stick to one path 24/7. Consumers will transition from one pathway to another throughout their day, depending on where they are, what they’re trying to accomplish, and why they’re engaging with a screen in the first place.

“Unless you understand why I’m doing what I’m doing, you can’t really drive the content successfully across those screens, because if you think I’m trying to be productive, but I’m actually being social from an experience perspective there’d be a profound disconnect,” says Hritzuk. “Consumers are not thinking in a discreet device way. They use these devices very interchangeably and almost subconsciously…they’re actually being driven very much by the experience that they’re seeking across the screens.”

Content grazing, the most common of the multi-screening pathways with a 68 percent incidence reported by those surveyed, occurs when users move between multiple screens to access or move between unrelated, disconnected pieces of content. The behavior primarily occurs in the evening and although it can provide users with an illusion of control, it is more of a habitual form of distraction.

Investigative spider-webbing, with a 57 percent rate of incidence, occurs when an immersive moment with content compels users to seek more information or content that complements the primary screen experience. In some contexts, “this is to make me feel like I’m making a better decision,” explains Hritzuk.

The quantum pathway, a 46 percent incidence rate, occurs when consumers jump from one screen to another over time to achieve a specific goal. It is a sequential journey driven by ease and productivity wherein each screen is taking consumers closer to completing that task, objective, or transaction. “Each screen is taking you closer to the goal of fulfillment,” says Hritzuk.

Social spider-webbing, a 39 percent incidence rate, is a less solitary and more extroverted version of the investigative spider-webbing pathway. “It’s basically multi-screening in the social world,” Hritzuk says. This pathway occurs when content shared via social media sparks consumers’ interest and encourages them to add their voice to the conversation.

“The big game change for this year and working into next year is we’re starting to use those frameworks for how we develop product and solutions internally,” Hritzuk tells ClickZ. “We’re taking these frameworks actually straight to R&D. And the engineers are using these frameworks to build targeting solutions, to build measurement solutions, and we’re going to be moving in the direction of building advertising product off the back of these consumer insights frameworks.”

Microsoft Advertising wants to “drive experiences that tap into those motivations and facilitate decision-making or fulfill some kind of core need,” she says. “If you’re not developing products that are anchored in that then there is in my mind a big disconnect between what you’re building and it’s very difficult to say that you’re driving genuine ad experiences for consumers.”

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