Consumers Now Expect Everything to Work on All Devices

Ubiquity is the new data plan

As the conversation around digital advertising focuses around the shift from desktop to mobile, and more recently the supposed promise of the wearables/ Internet-of-things/insert-buzzword-here revolution, a quiet theme is emerging that shouldn’t be overlooked or underestimated: the device-agnostic relationship consumers have with digital services. 

Illustration: Davor Pavelic

This device agnosticism is establishing the foundation for a more unified consumer experience, one that is contextually aware to your needs and preferences, enabling advertisers to finally move beyond owning a fuzzy relationship with devices and into more personal experiences.

In the ’80s, when boom boxes and VCRs were all the rage, we had 30 devices to do 30 different things and were none the wiser to how the world could get better until we were introduced to the iPhone. Then, all of a sudden, those 30 devices were magically transported into one device. Let’s call this the great device consolidation, an era that saw desktop and mobile come into their own and advertisers awakened to the compelling proposition that they could capture a consumer on a unit that had a one-to-one relationship with its owner, creating the opportunity for a consistent story to be told to the same person via the same device.

But just like the technology that increasingly governs it, marketing’s obsolescence cycle is speedy and already shifting away from the great device consolidation back into single-purpose device fragmentation. Only this time it’s different. This time each device serves a single purpose but is aware of the devices within the same network. Let’s call this the great device disaggregation.

In this era, consumers are going to use your service or content on multiple devices, but expect to get the same experience on each one. This is fundamentally different from the traditional media models we’ve been trained to think through. Watching a movie in a theater creates one set of advertising opportunities, while showing that same movie on cable TV creates a more receptive interruptive advertising opportunity.

That’s not how the world works anymore.

When viewing or listening to media, consumers expect the same experience regardless of device, in addition to the expectation that the content will be tailored to their needs. And we no longer live in a world where advertisers can create medium/ device-specific advertising campaigns and experiences because consumers are consuming the same media across multiple devices that cross-communicate.

When I log into Netflix, I expect to get the same personalized recommendations, whether it’s through my TV, iPad or Xbox. When I’m listening to Pandora (where I work), I expect to get the same personalized radio, regardless of whether it’s being managed via my computer or through my Pebble watch. When I’m opening Amazon, I want the same recommendations, regardless on which device I ultimately make my purchase.

Netflix is available on over 100 devices. Amazon is building its own unified media platform. This is the future of fragmentation. This is the way our new Internet-enabled future will emerge. This is the consumer expectation for their media.<

It will further become their expectation of advertising, too. The consumer doesn’t care which device they’re using when they turn to their favorite media source, because there is an expectation of consistency.

And new devices will continue to proliferate. While the excitement around the Apple Watch may prove to be more hype than real value, the natural utility of Internet-enabled devices is based in their ability to have an awareness of the other devices within the network of your presence.

Ubiquity is the new data plan. Your car, your phone, your toaster will all deliver content and collect data. The services most poised to win are those that can ensure they pick up where they left off on the last device.

So while consumers become agnostic to their devices, how will your marketing plan follow suit? How will you meet their fragmented demand?

Jack Krawczyk (@JackK) is director of product management at Pandora.

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