Building for the Device: Understanding Consumer Needs

As the pace of technological change continues to accelerate, content creators risk being forgotten if they do not reach their audience on new platforms. In this first post of a two part series, I will discuss why it is crucial to understand your audience’s content consumption habits.

Device Relay

It’s known that people use tablets, smartphones, and PCs for very different purposes throughout the day. According to The Pool, smartphones and tablets are used first thing in the morning, usually to check social media and news. Personal computer use dominates during work hours, but smartphone use remains high as well. As PC use declines with the end of the workday, tablet use rises, peaking around 9 PM as people read news, relax, and shop. Throughout the day, people go through this relay, switching from device to device to better complete their daily tasks. But, why are some tasks more likely to occur on certain devices?


Hiring Milkshakes

To help unravel this daily device relay, it may be helpful to look at Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen’s “jobs-to-be-done” framework. In his theory, customers “hire” products to do certain jobs in their daily lives. His famous example was of a milkshake, which he noticed was frequently hired by early morning commuters to keep them occupied and satisfied until lunchtime. His main point was that, to be able to improve upon the product, a company has to precisely understand “the job” the product does.

In this case, the company increased sales to these early morning commuters by adding pieces of fruit, which broke up the monotony of the shake. They also made it more viscous so that it took longer to consume. Carefully observing and understanding how the product is used in the customer’s life is extremely important.

Device Specific Form and Functionality

Each device: smartphone, tablet, or PC, has both a form and functionality that allows the device to do a specific job in a user’s life. In my own experience, I hire a smartphone to do the job of keeping my mind occupied while on the subway, but I wouldn’t hire a tablet since it requires two hands and doesn’t fit in my pocket. Conversely at home, since I’m less constrained, I’m much more likely to use a tablet, and dive into interactive digital magazines, which is a more time consuming experience. To increase sales of your product on any specific device, the product has to be optimized for the job the customer hires it for. For example, a smartphone app with your content should be quick and responsive, while the tablet experience may need to be more deep and engaging.

Quote-User from Google’s “The New Multi-screen World

Understanding precisely what job the customer needs done allows you to tailor a product to do that job even better. In Part II, I’ll examine two companies that successfully used their brand’s assets to create new products designed specifically for the smartphone and tablet user.