Decoding Tomorrow:
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From Multi-Channel to Multi-Screen: The New Norm.

06 Mar 2014

There's been no shortage of recent research documenting the rise of the multi-channel consumer, especially with the ever increasing proliferation of all things digital.


The rise of mobile, continued growth in internet penetration and traffic, booming smartphone and tablet sales, social media usage and channel growth, the decline of many bricks and mortar outlets and the digital replication of traditional physical mediums/ activities (for a comprehensive guide on the latest digitalisation trends check out Anders Sorman-Nilsson's Digilogue presentation, or The Future of Digital presentation by Business Insider.

Here are some statistics on just how well connected Americans are:


  • 81% of the population have access to a PC
  • 97% of homes own a TV
  • 44.8 million Americans own a tablet
  • 112.4 million Americans own a smartphone
  • 70% of households own at least one gaming console


More channels has led to greater complexity as consumers are increasingly defining their own purchase process including what touch-points to use, how to use them, and when to use them. This channel complexity from beginning to end, presents a contant risk for companies as they face the threat of a loss of customers to a competitor that has better optimised a particular touch-point, or better optimised the experience across a range of different touch-points, providing a better unified and seamless experience. 

Not only are customers accessing a wider range of channel touch-points or using a combination of physical and digital channels simultaneously (for example, customers choosing to purchase a good through mobile, either through the company's mobile website or a retailer like Amazon, while examining the physical good in a retail outlet), companies are seeing the growing trend of 'technophiles' using multiple screens to simultaneously interact with a company (for example, TV + tablet + mobile + PC), in effect shortening the overall purchase process. 

New research by Google Think Insights sheds new insight into how exactly consumers are interacting with companies across a range of screens simultaneously. 


  • 90% of all interactions with media occur in front of a screen (smartphones, tablets, TVs etc.) while 10% are non-screen based (radio, newspaper, magazine etc.) 
  • Two main multi-screen methods - sequential usage (one device followed by another) vs. simultaneous usage (more than one device at the same time).
  • An average of 3 screen combinations are used everyday - 81% have used a smartphone + TV combination, 66% have used a smartphone + laptop/PC combination and 66% have used a laptop/PC and television combination. 
  • Top activities performed simultaneously - emailing (60%), internet browsing (44%), social networking (42%), playing a game (25%), searching (23%), work documents (15%) and watching video (9%).
  • While 78% of simultaneous usage is multi-tasking (unrelated activities), 22% of simultaneous usage is complementary (same or related activities).


Companies must not only take into account the growing number of customers switching between devices sequentially on their path to purchase, but also cater to customers who prefer to transact simultaneously across devices.  This means using one device as a method to trigger specific behaviour on another such as having different forms of content tailored to each device, allowing customers to transition easily between devices or promoting customers to switch between devices through rewards and incentives. Simultaneity drives engagement - as long as companies treat each channel as a stand alone experience catering to a specific subset of customers or as the same experience simply replicated over and over again across devices, there remains an untapped opportunity to drive engagement through promoting cross-device usage.


1. What are your thoughts on simultaneous multi-screen shoppers?

2. Does your company provide a complementary multi-channel experience?

3. How would you promote the use of multiple screens on the path to purchase?

Anders Sorman-Nilsson is the author of "Digilogue: how to win the digital minds and analogue hearts of tomorrow's customer" published by Wiley. To receive a complimentary chapter from the book click here and fill in your details.
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