A new channel challenge for retailers: Dual-screening

In retail, we have seen merged channel, omnichannel and multi-channel, but here's an interesting twist: We are now seeing concrete marketing evidence from dual-screening, one courtesy of a new eBay U.K. report.

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In retail, we have seen merged channel, omnichannel and multi-channel, but here's an interesting twist: We are now seeing concrete marketing evidence from dual-screening, one courtesy of a new eBay U.K. report. Dual-screening is where a shopper watches television while also interacting with a mobile device.

Specifically, the report observed that purchases of cooking tools mentioned during a cooking show saw a 67 percent spike in mobile searches and mobile purchases at the moments following the references. That number grew to 133 percent more within an hour after the show.

In other words, consumers seeing a particular curved spatula or kitchen torch would immediately search for it and save it for purchase. That's the 67 percent spike and it's going to hit at different moments for different consumers, depending on which kitchen gadget intrigued them. But in the minutes after the show ended, they were all able to focus on the mobile device enough to complete payment and shipping details, which is why we saw the 133 percent spike.

This is interesting on its own, in terms of the potential impact for retailers. But when this trend is overlaid on top of another trend, it suggests a very different course of action. We're seeing a lot of consumers—especially millennials and even Generation Zers—who are abandoning TV sets, preferring to watch TV shows streamed to their mobile devices.

The problem is that mobile phones today are positively dreadful at toggling between screens. That means that retail apps need to find a way to enable into video apps the dual-screen purchasing that consumers like.

This will take visual recognition to the next level. Since the dawn of the web, sites have been able to sell words in stories. Want to sponsor the word "desk"? You've got it. The next goal needs software intelligence to recognize images within a movie or a TV show. If a character is pouring a beer, embed a link to tentatively buy Budweiser. It should be a one-click option that does nothing more than note the interest, putting an item in a virtual shopping cart.

When the software concludes that the show is over (end credit detection perhaps?), it comes back with a new message, asking the shopper if he/she wants to complete that beer purchase. Just like the eBay report noted: split the task of indicating "I want it" from "let me actually choose the particulars—such as color or size—and pay for it and select a shipping location." That impulsive initial click could make a massive difference in sales.

This is very different from a commercial. Commercials, by their nature, are interruptive. This is designed to be as non-interruptive as possible, while allowing the entertainment content to sell for you passively. This is also very different from product placement. It sits on top of content that someone else made and paid for.

As mentioned, these are not commercials. But commercials themselves should soon be able to be less static and more interactive. When a commercial is being watched on a mobile device, it has the awareness of the phone's location and it can also tie into real-time inventory at the store level. What does that get you? A commercial for a power saw could integrate into the text a more compelling call to action, as in "Available at the Smithtown store, just two miles away. But only 2 left in stock."

Retailers need to find new and more integrated ways to embed their offerings into a mobile world. And eBay may have just given us a big clue how to do that.

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