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Digital Marketing In Our Four-Screen World

A large portion of today’s media consumption is done via “companion viewing,” in which the television is the primary screen, and the tablet or smartphone is secondary. Find out how to capitalize on this trend.


Remember the good old days when Nielsen gathered television-viewing ratings from various American families via a little box they shipped out to the home for tracking? It was 1936, when Founder Arthur C. Nielsen invested in his very first television-metering device and at the time, there were only a few hundred television sets in the world. Today, Nielsen continues to measure our TV watching habits, but their business model has been vastly expanded to include tracking user behavior on PCs, tablets and mobile devices.

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The Four-Screen World
We are now living in a four-screen world — with television still very much in the mix and showing no signs of going away anytime soon. In fact, a large portion of media consumption is done via “companion viewing,” in which the television is the primary screen, and the tablet or smartphone is secondary, allowing the viewer to log on to a website and/or social channel to converse in real time with other TV show watchers, creating a truly interactive experience.

Companion viewing represents a unique shift in behavior that should not be ignored since it guides us toward future trends and potential marketing opportunities. For example, let’s say you sponsor a motocross race that is being broadcasted on live TV. The live broadcast casts a wide net, reaching out to a vast audience. If you are aware of companion viewing habits, it would be wise to come up with a creative Twitter hashtag to be included on all of your sponsorship materials so fans can interact with your dealership when and where they please.

24/7 Digital World
One would logically think that adding more ways for us to consume content would end up taking time away from one screen to another. Not so. The proliferation of multiple devices per user has only resulted in more time spent with the devices. We know this, since we see people staring at their smartphones every time they have a free moment. We have become obsessed with staying connected, and you need to use this obsession to your advantage when it comes to marketing your dealership. Our viewing habits are shared between screens, and they are following a pattern:

  • 12 a.m. – 7 a.m.: Mobile phones brighten the commute
  • 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.: PCs dominate the workday
  • 5 p.m. -12 p.m.: Tablets are popular at night

Considering these things as a digital marketer, it leads me to believe that text marketing will likely have the highest open/view rate early morning, email campaigns are best sent during the workday and companion viewing most likely occurs in the evening.

New Analytics Needed
Most of us are used to tracking website metrics and traffic patterns, but how does the use of multiple devices impact our trusted analytics program? The four-screen world has essentially tipped the analytics world on its head for a few

The traditional way to track a user on the Web is to drop a small piece of code, aka a “cookie,” on their machine after they have visited. The cookie then allows us to identify that user as a return visitor if and when they return. The cookie has been the mainstay for differentiating unique or first-time visitors from return visitors. Here’s the problem: cookies are not people.


Think about this scenario: Joe Motorcycle visits your dealership’s website to check out new vehicles and your analytics program tracks him as a unique or new visitor. He is then bored at work, so he logs on to your website via his mobile phone and your analytics program doesn’t recognize the device, so it shows him in your reporting as a new, unique visitor — again. It gets worse … Joe then tries to convince his girlfriend he must buy the motorcycle today, so he logs on to her tablet so show her how awesome it is. You guessed it — Joe is once again logged in your analytics program as a new or unique visitor. Oh, and let’s not forget apps. If you have a dealership app and Joe downloads it to his phone, he is logged as a brand-new customer.

Cross-Platform Tracking

Now, there are a few companies doing cross-platform tracking successfully. One of them is our old friend Nielsen, who is very much holding their own in the digital world. Here is how they describe their tracking processes:


“Our television meter provides an electronic snapshot of consumer viewing, our Internet user panels provide online audience metrics, and we’re using on-device meters to record interactions with smartphones and tablets. We’re also measuring how consumers engage with all of these devices together, taking the guesswork out of trying to figure out who and how many people watch your shows and see your commercials across TV and digital media.”

The closest competitor to Nielsen is comScore, and they collect data in a similar fashion. Both companies offer free reports and whitepapers that are worth taking a look at, so you can keep up to speed on cross-platform tracking in the digital world:

If I did my job here, this article has made you excited about the state of digital media consumption, and you will continue from here thinking about ways you can capitalize upon it. If I scared the living heck out of you, you’re in the wrong business. 

Award-winning blogger and CEO of Duo Web Solutions, Heather Blessington is a nationally-renowned speaker on social media marketing and a digital marketing veteran. Her company provides MPN monthly columns focused on best practices in Web marketing for powersports dealers.

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