As tablets and smartphones become increasingly entwined with our everyday lives, switching between these devices and our trusty PCs is becoming increasingly common. A few years back, a person might have bought tickets to a concert online after seeing it advertised on TV or hearing about it on the radio. Today that same person might learn about a concert from any number of sources — a blog, app, social media, etc. — while using their smartphone during a morning commute. Then, later that day, they might buy tickets on their laptop or tablet.
To better understand people’s behavior across multiple devices, Facebook commissioned a study of more than 2,000 people from international market research agency GfK to explore these changes in the US and the resulting implications for marketers.1
The study shows that as multiple devices become an integral part of our lives, switching between them is becoming standard practice. More than 60% of online adults in the US use at least two devices everyday and almost one quarter use three devices. More than 40% of online adults sometimes start an activity on one device only to finish it on another.
Different devices, different roles
Though it’s easy to assume people use all devices for all purposes, it turns out that’s not the case. The GfK study found that people feel a different connection to each device, and each plays a distinct role.
In general the smartphone is considered the go-to device; 76% of adults who own one use it while they are out and about. It is always present and used most commonly for communication and social activity. The tablet is viewed as the entertainment hub and is often used at home, where 43% of tablets are shared with others. The laptop or desktop is the workhorse — 80% of online adults that own one use it at home, and it tends to be dedicated to important tasks like work or managing finances.
In search of convenience and comfort
More than 40% of online adults sometimes begin an activity on one device and finish on another, according to the GfK study. This number increases with the amount of devices one owns: 53% of people who own two devices switch between them to complete tasks or activities, and 77% of people who have three devices do the same. Reasons for switching vary, but in general people tend to move to a larger screen.
Among all the device switches covered in the study, 22% ended with a tablet and 58% with a laptop. Most often, people start on a smartphone, then move to the bigger screen for reasons including the ease of typing on a larger device. Comfort and convenience are the main reasons people switch devices mid-activity, but the urgency of the task, the length of time involved, security and privacy concerns, and the level of detail required are other important considerations. And while switching devices can happen at work, in cafes and everywhere in between, it occurs most often at home in front of the TV, when all devices are within easy reach.
Mobile throughout the day
The study showed that Facebook and email are the activities most likely to take place across devices, and that mobile is the only device used continuously throughout the day. For example, more than twice as many people in the study use their smartphones at work than their personal laptops, and people are 8X more likely to use their mobile on public transport than their laptop, and 2X more likely than their tablet.
Creating consistency in a complicated world
Not surprisingly, with people constantly moving between devices, it is important for marketers to reach their audience across all platforms. Brand experiences should be consistent, allowing for people to begin an activity on one device and finish on another. Facebook can help provide a constant thread by device and by context. Because people use their real identity on Facebook, it’s easier to reach, report and measure across devices, creating consistency in a complicated world.