A major shift in media consumption has occurred. Between television, smartphones, computers, and tablets, 90% of our media interactions are now screen based. On average, we're spending 4.4 hours of leisure time in front of our screens each day. As Americans move further from traditional magazines, radio, and newspapers to screen-based media, marketers need to understand how, when, and why consumers are using multiple screens.

Google's study, The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-platform Consumer Behavior, offers a comprehensive look at how consumers are navigating multiple screens. A key finding is that multi-screen behavior happens in one of two ways: Sequential usage or simultaneous usage. With sequential usage, the user is moving from one device to another at different times to accomplish a task. For example, a user conducts a search for a new car on their smartphone, then switches to a laptop to gain more detail of a particular car's features. Simultaneous usage occurs when more than one device is used at the same time for either a related (multi-tasking) or unrelated (complementary usage) activity. A user watching sports on tv while playing a game on their tablet would be multi-tasking, while a user looking up flight costs on their laptop and smartphone simultaneously would be engaging in complementary usage.

With this background, Google concluded that 90% of people use multiple screens sequentially, and that smartphones are the most common starting point for this activity. This movement occurs quickly, with 98% of sequential screeners moving between devices in the same day to complete a task.  Simultaneous usage is a major trend when it comes to television, with 77% of viewers watching TV with another device in hand. Search was found to be a critical connector between devices. TV viewing can lead to searches on mobile devices triggered by content or advertising. When people use screens sequentially to complete an activity, they often use search to pick up where they left off.

What do these findings mean for marketers? We need to be aware of the multiple screens customers are using every day and also how they are being used. Google notes that sequential screeners will start interacting with you on one device and then pick up where they left off on another, so making experiences seamless between devices is key. Cross-media campaigns can help you make the most of consumers' simultaneous usage across screens. The combination of device accessibility and spur-of-the-moment usage means there are now more opportunities to connect with consumers, so businesses have to make sure they are present and optimized across multiple screens.

For more from Google on the multi-screen world, view the entire study.