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How to Market to Consumers in a Post-Screen World

It seems like just yesterday that marketers were wondering how their brands would survive once consumers started paying more attention to their mobile devices than they did to the TV, radio, or newspaper. Marketers were forced to forget much of what they knew about marketing and advertising in order to rapidly adjust to the new digital world. But now, even the digital and mobile world is changing, and marketers must quickly adjust once more in order to stay relevant.

Changes in the Digital and Mobile World

Although the iPhone X made a lot of headlines this year, it was another new Apple product that should have caught marketers’ attention. The Apple Watch Series 3 was also introduced in 2017, and it was the first watch to come with LTE cellular connectivity. With this new technology, consumers with an Apple Watch will be able to put on a pair of headphones and do many of the same things with their watch that they can do on their phone. This includes making phone calls, getting directions, playing music, sending text messages, and even asking Siri to look up movie times online.

The Apple Watch isn’t the only device that consumers can use to perform many of these tasks. Many consumers have turned to digital home assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa when they want to complete many of the tasks that they relied on their smartphones for in the past. Using a smart speaker, consumers don’t have to pick up their smartphones to place phone calls, set reminders, play music, or even search for affordable plane tickets for an upcoming trip.

The Problems Marketers Must Face

Why do these changes to how consumers use their devices matter to marketers? Now that consumers can rely on a hands-free device to do all of these tasks, there’s no need for them to look at their smartphone screens. As a result, marketers may find that communicating with consumers via digital ads, social media, and mobile apps may not be as effective. Since the vast majority of brands rely on reaching consumers through these channels, marketers may find the need to drastically adjust their strategies to align with consumer behavior in a post-screen world.

Of course, devices such as Apple Watches have screens, too. But, the size of the Apple Watch’s screen is significantly smaller than the size of a standard smartphone screen. Marketers who attempt to get their message across to someone who is wearing an Apple Watch must remember that small fonts or details may not be visible on such a tiny screen.

Another challenge that marketers will face is the fact that many consumers will rely on voice commands and digital assistants to make important purchase decisions. In the past, a consumer who is looking for a local pizza restaurant typically used Google to search for the best pizza places nearby. Brands who wanted to target these consumers could invest in SEO or bid on pay-per-click ads in order to increase their chances of appearing in the search results. Then, the brand would have an opportunity to sell to the person looking for pizza with a catchy headline or enticing pay-per-click ad. But now, consumers who have Apple Watches or smart speakers may simple use voice commands to ask for this information instead. Consumers will no longer be presented with a list of options—instead they may rely on whatever their digital assistant suggests.

How Marketers Can Adjust to the Post-Screen World

It’s estimated that about 30% of interactions that take place between a human and a computer will be voice or location activated by the end of the decade. What does this mean for marketers? It’s not time to completely abandon all digital and mobile marketing efforts, but it is an appropriate time to start making adjustments.

Some industry experts believe that brands need to invest heavily in “anticipatory” services that can predict what consumers want with such accuracy that consumers place their complete trust in the service. For example, in an ideal world, a woman who is shopping for a red lipstick could use voice commands to order a lipstick without ever looking at the screen to check the color. In this example, the anticipatory service built by the cosmetic brand would use the consumer’s past purchases to determine which shade of red lipstick would look best on her.

Building anticipatory services may be effective, but it is also incredibly costly, which means it’s not an option for the vast majority of brands. One inexpensive way for marketers to start adjusting to the post-screen world is to implement a voice-friendly SEO strategy.

Researchers have found that search queries vary greatly depending on whether the consumer is searching by text or voice. For instance, someone who is searching for a red lipstick by text may type in “best red lipstick” or “dark red lipstick” whereas someone who is searching by voice may ask “What is the best red lipstick?” or “Where can I buy dark red lipstick?” A brand that only uses “best red lipstick” and “dark red lipstick” as keywords may not have a chance with the customers who are searching by voice. To ensure that both groups of customers are targeted, marketers must adjust their SEO keyword strategy.