Our clients evidence the same trend, as desktop usage dies down in the evening, mobile and smartphone access to their websites rise, regardless of their sector.

In my opinion, this out-of-hours use introduces a different kind of mentality. Research from inMobi supports this theory, suggesting those at home tend to be in a ‘relaxed mindset’ and are likely to use their tablet for ‘big ticket purchasing’.

This suggests brands should assess their capability to segment content and provide ‘calls to action’ by ‘day-part’, in order to better support those who have the time and motivation to consider bigger purchases.

Econsultancy’s recent Multi-Screen Marketer report found that, even among those respondents with just a television and computer, 52% report that it’s somewhat or very likely that they’re using another device while watching television.

With each screen added to the mix, that percentage rises, with 60% of smartphone users (three screens) and 65% of tablet owners (four screens) saying that multi-device use is the norm while watching TV.

A September 2012 survey of US internet users, commissioned by the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, found that Facebook has the greatest influence on getting people to watch a TV programme.

This suggests brands should consider the ‘day-part’ for any offers, content and customer support links they place on Facebook and align themselves more effectively with TV programming schedules. 

Meshing and stacking

Ofcom makes a clear distinction in its recent second-screen analysis. Whilst media ‘meshing’ is the concurrent use of digital channels in relation to what you are watching on television, media ‘stacking’ is the use of digital channels for a different purpose in conjunction with TV viewing.

I would argue these two approaches cross-over, could I not start off ‘stacking’ then end up ‘meshing’ if what I am watching is sufficiently compelling and social? In fact, a brand could act as the instigator, persuading the consumer to start exploring their offer and content instead of browsing unrelated content.  

‘Meshing’ is a much bigger phenomenon across 16-24 year olds, who are nearly twice as likely to text whilst watching TV (32% of 16-24 year olds vs. 17% of adults aged over 25) as well as more than twice as likely to social network during a TV programme.

The Youth Insight Report 2012/13 states that 85% of this age group buy online at least once a month and more than one in ten buy online weekly with 89% saying their ‘view of a brand is improved if they are offered a discount’.

This doesn’t mean youth digital retailing strategies should be solely concerned with discounting, however it does suggest that flexing margins and considering when and how you place your messaging (and making it accessible on mobile devices) should be major considerations for brands looking to win within this group.

James Thickett, Ofcom’s Director of Research recently commented:

Increasingly, families are gathering in the living room to watch TV just as they were in the 1950s – but now delivered on bigger, wider and more sophisticated sets. Unlike the 1950s family, however, they are also doing their own thing. They are tweeting about a TV show, surfing the net or watching different content altogether on a tablet.” 

This overlap between the internet lives of household members suggests that face-to-face social validation takes place in these communal situations with people discussing products, brands, issues and programmes as they use connected devices and browse content. 

This phenomenon really starts to come to life in the context of appointment TV programming, such as sporting or national events and prime time TV. If groups are sitting together it would be reasonable to assume that the ‘meshing’ effect would be amplified and the impact greater as friends and family discuss the game, event or show with each other and their social networks.

These developments present many opportunities to test situation-selling to consumers who are experiencing content or engaging with programming on more than once device, IF the offer, timing and supporting content are right and customer support, social media and app strategies are aligned.

Whilst ‘second-screening’ and ‘social TV’ are not new phenomena, we are starting to learn more and more about how audiences are using multiple devices whilst consuming TV programming.

Brands need to make better use of these insights to situation-sell and think laterally about how to combine trends such as crowd sourced and group offers, personalised discounts and contextual content to convert users in the moment, taking full advantage of the company they are in.

As more and more people reach for their devices on the sofa, will we see the rules of online shopping re-written with situation-selling starting to take a front-row seat?