Tablet Habits: Four Things Marketers Need to Know About The In Between Screen

A tablet is just one more screen to gawk at, right?

Au contraire. Studies show consumers use their tablets for different tasks than laptops or smartphones.

Google’s Mobile Ads Blog recently published a study chock-full of statistics on when, where and why consumers use their tablets. Google’s study had participants record their tablet use in a diary over the course of two weeks, and the results were surprising.

Let’s take a look at the study’s most interesting findings and just what this information means for marketers.

1) Laptops are for work; tablets are for play

Think people use tablets for work? Think again. 91% of time spent on tablets is for personal rather than work related activities – most often checking email, playing games or social networking.

When targeting tablet users, marketers should focus on lightweight, even fun content rather than long, data-heavy articles. Think quick, chuckle-inducing emails, video content and interactive apps designed specifically for tablets.

2) Attention competition

The same study found that 42% of activities done on a tablet are performed while the user is engaging an another activity, like watching TV, eating or cooking.

mobile activities

Let’s pick apart this odd looking chart from Google. When people check their email on a tablet, they’re likely to either be watching TV, eating or drinking. Can you say distraction? No one is going to scroll through time consuming or detail-oriented content while sipping their beer or watching the evening news. Keep it short, punchy and interesting. And remember, interesting images can catch even the most distracted of eyes.

Many tablet users are active on social networks while watching TV, eating or drinking. Instead of fighting these distractions, think of creative ways to connect the two activities. Pillsbury forged this connection throughout the holiday season using their partnership with Shazam. With the knowledge that moms often have their mobile devices out while watching TV, they programmed the app to recognize the Pillsbury commercials and automatically bring exclusive content to straight to said tablet or smartphone. The key is finding a way to bring users back to your content.

3) Tablets are homebodies

Tablets were made to be an easily portable device, but most people actually leave their tablets at home (with the exception of business trips and vacations). The chart below looks at where in the home people are most likely to participate in the specific tablet activities.

Most people use their tablets on the couch, in bed or in the kitchen. We love to check our email in bed, and we search just about anywhere. Keep these locations and the moods they tend to induce in mind when planning tablet-friendly content.

mobile activities


4) Shopping, sloth-style       

Shopping is a popular tablet activity, and as shown on the chart above, people use their tablets to search pretty much anywhere in their homes. And while tablets may not be the go-to device for the actual purchase, we use our tablets to reconnoiter items on our wish lists by engaging with brands through social media, skimming daily deal emails and browsing shopping sites.

This relationship-building process is key for marketers. Can users find your brand on social media, whether they’re looking for it or not? Is there attention-grabbing social activity, or will users find boring, automated updates? If your brand uses daily deal sites, does the engagement stop there?

The overall lesson for marketers is that with tablet users, you’re dealing with an extremely limited attention span. Combat distractions by being brief, exciting and easily-located on social sites while serving content specifically designed for that odd but popular “in between screen”.