Mobile multi-tasking

A question to our mobile readers: what are you doing right now (I mean, other than reading this blog)? Are you watching TV? Are you at work, waiting for a document to upload? Are you in the queue at Tesco?

Because, if so, you’re part of a growing group of consumers who are using their mobile devices to maximise every single moment. According to “hectic, urban lifestyles mean that no amount of (micro) time will be too fleeting, or activity too absorbing, to cram in more content, connection, consumption or simply more fun”.

I for one reach for my smartphone whenever possible: I’ll read a news app whilst on the cycling machine at the gym, I’ll scan Facebook if my partner goes to the loo at a restaurant, and I check my emails when I’m drying my hair. And I’m not alone – The Mobile Life report published by O2 in 2013 found that we spend a whopping 119 minutes a day checking our smartphones.

Second screens are the poster-child for this phenomenon. The frequently documented trend explains how TV no longer commands our full attention, and how increasing numbers of us are using mobile devices alongside our favourite programs. Back in 2012, Sky reported that 75% of Brits were ‘second screening’ — and this number seems likely to continue to rise.

One outcome for brands is that suddenly the lag between an audience seeing a TV ad and making a potential purchase has disappeared. An American app called ‘Get This’, for example, allows users to buy the clothes used on famous shows; You see a gorgeous necklace worn by your favourite character, and suddenly it pops up on your iPad so that you can buy it straight away. Second screens also give brands the opportunity to strengthen their broadcast TV messages with more targeted, personalised messages using syncronished digital ads, targeting the audience when they are most primed for purchase.

Beyond the living room, consumers are also using their mobiles to optimise their high-street shopping. According to Marketing Magazine, The L2 Think Tank believe this ‘mobile influence’ will account for global sales of $689,000,000,000 by 2016, and 43% of shoppers are already using a mobile to compare prices and look at product reviews while on the high-street.

There are now a wealth of branded apps available to help shoppers optimise their time and exercise their wallets. Simply take a picture of a product in store with your Amazon app and, if available, you can order the very same product for less online within seconds; upload your shopping list to French supermarket Casino’s app and it will show you the quickest route around the store, saving you precious minutes. And an app we recently created for NUS Extra allows students to find the best discounts by location (wandering round the Arndale looking for a good value jumper? There’s a shop 25m away offering a 25% discount, and another 50m away…).

The opportunities for brands are endless, but so are the risks. Efficiency seeking consumers expect resource gratification to be instant. Three clicks through a cluttered navigation and you’ve lost them, a few wordy posts too many and you’ve been unliked…. Offer consumers something useful — but make it quick!