There’s no denying we live in a fast-paced age. We are constantly bombarded with all kinds of easy-to-access information around the clock.
The cost of easy information? Shrinking attention spans.
Just look at how our television-viewing behaviors have changed. A few decades ago, television commercials were a full 60 seconds long. They had short plot lines, and viewers followed along. These were supplanted by the 30-second commercial. Now, 15-second ads seem to be the sweet spot. Nielsen found that between 2008 and 2012, the number of 15-second commercial spots jumped 80%. In 2000 the average attention span was 12 seconds. That has now plummeted to a mere eight seconds. That is less than the average attention span of a goldfish! Furthermore, a study of Internet browsing behaviors found that 17% of page views didn’t even last 4 seconds, and only 4% of page views lasted 10 minutes. People are notorious for flitting from one page to another. If the information they need doesn’t pop in front of them immediately, they’re off to find it elsewhere—likely from one of your company’s competitors.
What’s a marketer to do?
Marketers need to capture their potential customers’ attention quickly, or they’ll likely lose them forever. The challenge is real, but not unmanageable. Marketers must change their way of thinking. The tools are out there; they just need to be implemented in the right ways. The key to an effective marketing strategy in this era of short attention spans is to be there when your customer needs you.
Shift to Mobile
One of the biggest influences on how people consume information is the massive shift to mobile devices. Most people are rarely without their phones close at hand; we are almost always plugged-in. For 2016, eMarketer predicts that mobile ads will account for over 16% of total advertising spending. That means that from 2013 to 2016, the global mobile ad market will have expanded almost 430%. Savvy marketers are targeting their advertising to catch their potential customers in the moment. It’s imperative that relevant ads appear right when people need the information. Otherwise, they’ll be off to the competition. People use their smartphones constantly throughout the day. They rely on their phones to find information and research products and services. Google found that 69% of leisure travelers used their smartphones to search for travel ideas. While they’re waiting in line for an art exhibit, they may be researching where they want to eat that night. And a person doesn’t need to be far from home to pull out their phone to research something. Google also found that 82% of smartphone users consult their phones while in a store to make decisions about what to buy. If someone is considering buying a television, they may pull out their phone to research what features it has or check prices at competing stores. Marketers can use customers’ reliance on their smartphones to their advantage. A person’s cell phone can provide all kinds of information about their behaviors and buying habits. Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation can provide exact physical locations, and apps can track every page that’s visited and search that’s entered. There are even apps that know whether someone is sitting, walking, or driving while using their phone. All of this data can be used by marketers to give a potential customer the specific information they need in the moment. People want to find precise, relevant information, and they want it immediately. Successful marketers are taking advantage of this and making the products and services they’re promoting pop up at the ideal times—right when the customer is thinking about them.
Tools to Capitalize on These Moments
People are increasingly using their smartphones to research or make purchases in the moment. According to Google’s 2015 consumer survey, 50% of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphones end up visiting a store within a day, and 18% of those searches lead to purchases within a day. The survey also found that if people are unsure of where to eat, nearly half of them won’t search for a restaurant until within an hour of going. You want your business or product to jump right to the forefront of your potential customer’s phone exactly when they need it.
Ads on Mobile Apps
An effective way to grab your customer’s attention at the right moment is by placing ads on mobile apps. That way, if someone is hungry and has a hankering for pizza, when they search for “pizza,” your pizzeria—located just around the corner from where they are standing—will pop to the top of the search page. You can even add some coupons to further entice them.
In this day of instant gratification, if someone wants an item, they don’t want to spend time going from store-to-store to find it. Think of the benefit if you could tell a potential customer how many items you have in stock at that moment. Google’s local inventory ads do just that. Your customer doesn’t have to worry about a wasted trip to a store where the item they need is sold out.
Click-to-call ads have been around for a while, but they can be effective. Sometimes—even in this fast-paced age of computer dominance—people would like to talk to a human. A simple click-to-call button makes it effortless. If someone searches for “Italian food near me,” have a click-to-call button pop up next to your restaurant information, so your customer can easily make a reservation before they consider another place. In addition to the tools, remember that presentation counts, especially on mobile devices. Keep the basics in mind, so your information is easily consumable and stands out. Keep videos short and content scannable, and provide plenty of visuals.
Challenges Ahead, But Also Many Benefits
Sure, grabbing someone’s attention within seconds can be difficult, but once you accept that shorter attention spans are the norm, you can adapt and run some very successful marketing campaigns. Shorter attention spans come with some real benefits to marketers. Shorter advertisements are often cheaper to produce. Perhaps more importantly, small attention spans force marketers to be much more precise when targeting new customers. This can be a challenge, but by targeting people who genuinely have an interest in your product or service and timing it so you catch them at the exact moment they need you, you’ll experience significant payoffs.