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Last year, Microsoft released a study on the evolution of a 3-screen media environment. The premise of the study was that marketers need to be aware of the behaviors and attitudes of consumers towards each screen, how consumers expect their different media to work together, and what consumers expect from their media and advertising experiences.

As we move into 2012, here at Impact Radius we have been talking to our clients and thinking about the challenge of marketing to the evolving “multi-screen” consumer. While 3-screen behavior, measurement, and usage is complex and varies for different audience segments, marketers do also stand to gain much from proper execution. Multi-screen users turn to their screens for specific purposes and if you engage them with the right tone and message, you can deliver a highly relevant purchase prompt.

This post covers the major challenges of executing a 3-screen marketing strategy and is part of our 2012 Marketing Challenges Series. You can read earlier 2012 marketing challenges posts here.

Different paths—converging purpose
According to Microsoft, the evolution of a 3-screen media environment has changed the purchase decision process. The purchase funnel has evolved from five phases to three: brand awareness, consideration and preference, and encourage purchase. In the new funnel, all screens work together to drive brand awareness, while the computer is still the dominant form in the middle of the funnel.

Some key findings from their research include: 88% of people research brands and products on computers, 36% research them on smartphones, and 32% research them from watching television.

But computers and smartphones (as well the emerging tablet)  are the key devices used to encourage purchases; 89% of the “multi-screen generation” has made a purchase via computer and 30% has done so via their smartphone. In addition, 65% use smartphones to make purchasing decisions when they’re away from home.

The point is that all screens work together to drive transaction. As Microsoft puts it:

Consumers use several screens to perform the same activities. And yet, we also see that each screen serves its own purpose— but that all of the screens consumers use work together to form a cohesive experience. The purchase funnel as we know it has changed. Multi-Screen media consumption means that purchase decisions take different paths, and each screen plays a critical role (Source).

Understanding the role each screen plays in influencing purchase behavior is the first challenge. And this is no easy feat—as different audience segments use screens in different ways.

One screen doesn’t fit all
A major challenge of a 3-screen strategy is that you want to shift your focus towards the channel(s) which have the strongest impact for your target consumer. This involves developing a deep understanding of your audience and how different channels fit into their lifestyle and buying habits.


Research shows that different age groups have different purchase behaviors and your 3-screen strategy for reaching consumers depends on your audience. For example, 18-34 year-olds are more interactive with media – and will shop, use social networking, message friends and use gaming across multiple devices. In contrast, users 35+ are passive with media and content is consumed from one device.

Optimization and design
There are also challenges in designing sites and optimizing content for 3-screens. For starters, each screen has different resolutions and use different technologies (for example, Flash vs. HTML5). Ad creative sizes also require more diligent planning, as there is a big difference between a mobile ad unit and TV ad unit.

The tablet—rapid adoption coming
The tablet is a further addition to the 3-screen challenge as it blends together different media experiences. The tablet is a TV, laptop, social connector, and smartphone. According to Forrester, only 9% of web shoppers currently have tablet devices. But, as this audience reveals, tablet users prefer to use their tablets for shopping rather than their PC’s or smartphones. Retailers surveyed by Forrester report that 21% of their mobile traffic comes from tablets.


Forrester also predicts that tablet ownership will skyrocket over the next few years: in the US tablet users are estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 51 percent from 2010 to 2015. That means one-third of US adults will likely own a tablet by 2015, making it a very important part of emerging media.

Tracking challenges for multiple devices
Tracking is no easy feat with a 3-screen strategy. For one, cookies do not migrate from your PC to your phone. This requires more planning and alternative forms of tracking such as the use of promo codes and unique URLs. After you have gathered the data, you also need to tie these different sources together in your analytics. If you are gathering data from multiple sources, it is difficult to see the holistic picture and to connect the dots from all of your campaigns different touch-points. (See our recent post on consolidating the digital marketing toolset.)


Measuring multitasking
In a study done by Yahoo! almost 80 percent of respondents engaged in mobile multitasking while watching TV. And during the course of a TV program, more than 60 percent check their phones at least “once or twice,” and 15 percent stay on the mobile Web for the full duration of the show.

Is this a distraction? Or enhancement? Turns out, it can be either. According to Razorfish, an equal percentage of multitasking respondents (38 percent) agreed or strongly agreed with these statements:

  • Using the Internet on my mobile or tablet device while watching TV enhances my viewing experience.
  • I find using mobile devices while watching TV to be distracting.

Measuring multitasking users is complex and requires new forms of analytics and performance indicators.

What it all means
The digital shift isn’t about reaching consumers in new formats and new places. It means that our audience’s media consumption habits are changing and, as a result, they are expecting advertisers to understand how they use each screen. This requires an intimate knowledge of not only the technologies of each screen, but an understanding of the habits and behaviors of different audience segments.

This means that while our media landscape is fragmented—consumers expect and value cohesive and connected experiences across their multifaceted media use. The challenge for 2012 will be to make sure that our marketing campaigns help deliver relevant and consistent messages—bringing together different media and understanding how different touch-points converge and interact.

3-Screen Marketing Solutions Coming Soon
Those are the challenges we at Impact Radius are monitoring when it comes to planning and executing a 3-screen marketing strategy. Subscribe to our RSS feed and stay tuned for our solutions report designed to help you better understand 3-screen execution and other digital marketing challenges predicted for 2012.

Impact Radius offers robust multi-channel tracking solutions to help you analyze the performance of your different marketing channels in an increasingly complex purchase path. If you just want some free advice, message us on Twitter or drop us a note at

Read more of Impact Radius’ 2012 Marketing Challenges
“Marketing Challenge #1: Mastering Mobile”

“Marketing Challenge #3: Truly Integrating Offline and Online Media”

“Marketing Challenge #8: Adopting Attribution Reporting”

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