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Maximizing Consumer Engagement at a Time of Decreasing Attention Spans

 
February 9, 2018

An average consumer is bombarded with thousands of marketing messages across platforms every day. Are all these messages catching the viewer’s attention? The answer, as you might have guessed, is ‘no’. Driven by instant gratification, modern consumers flit from one message to another within a matter of seconds. Needless to say, the competition for consumer eyeballs is frenetic. Given the deluge of marketing messages, how do you catch the attention of finicky consumers?

Consistent and pithy messaging is your best bet

According to Forrester Research, the key to winning consumer attention lies in ensuring quality of messaging. 2017 is considered an inflection point as marketers are expected to increasingly focus on messaging quality over messaging quantity. It is also critical to keep your messaging simple and short. Customers tend to scan through information and you perhaps have 10 seconds, or less, to catch their attention and convince them to continue viewing your message. How do you make an impact in 10 seconds?

Rely on short, direct messages that focus on the customer pain points right away and connect them to the key differentiators of your solution. It is also essential to focus on one idea at a time. Once you draw the consumer into your message, optimize the rest of the message for readability. For example, provide the most relevant details at the top with the content structured as an inverted pyramid – in the order of relevance for the customer. The destination marketing website of Humboldt county in California is an excellent example of high quality marketing messaging with short, action-oriented text.

Great user experience starts with understanding user goals

Putting the ‘user’ at the center of your user experience strategy is the most important requirement to ensure unimpeded engagement. User experience research, aided by analytics data is often a good source for insights into consumer demographics, browsing patterns and frequented platforms. Contextual inquiry, interviews, or informal testing of existing products or websites, is also a great way of getting up close and personal with end users. Insights into user behavior and preferences can help you shape a superior user experience in terms of navigation – one that is driven by user goals.

For a frictionless user experience, it is ideal to stick to platform conventions that users are familiar with. A consistent user experience across apps, tools, and websites is also critical to user experience optimization, more so in the face of the growing trend of sequential device usage. The modern user has a tendency to start a task on mobile and complete it later on desktop to take advantage of each device’s strong points. Focusing on enabling the main user goal can help eliminate unnecessary design elements and keep the navigation simple. Bucking the luxury brand trend of content heavy, unusable but great-looking ecommerce stores, Mulberry’s website burnishes its luxury brand credentials while ensuring a goal-oriented user experience.  The design makes it clear where you need to go to start shopping. The product pages recreate the in-store experience with multiple product images from various angles, including interiors to help readers visualize the size. A single page checkout makes the checkout as short as possible.

Narrative is the key to impactful rich media

Marketers realize the value of rich visual media messages in terms of reach and target focus. According to Forrester Research, online video spend has increased 114% since 2014. Video drop-out rates after the initial few seconds are quite high though. How do you create video messages that make an impact in a few seconds? The key is to discard the traditional way of doing videos with intros, logos and credits, and people talking into the camera without context. Not only should you deliver your key message quickly, but you should also arouse their curiosity to watch more in the first five seconds.

It is also essential to choose your video thumbnail carefully as it creates the critical first impression. Not only are viewers more likely to watch a short video completely, it can also trigger viewer curiosity to access more content on your website, enabling you to better drive traffic and conversions. Volvo created an entire video content marketing funnel that takes potential truck buyers from awareness to the time of purchase decision. It all starts with a one minute video featuring Jean Claude Van Damme, that has garnered more than 87 million views on YouTube till date. By using a daring celebrity stunt to showcase the truck’s steering equilibrium, Volvo ensured that people who are interested in or own trucks saw and shared the video in their networks.

Unified brand messaging can maximize customer attention and engagement

Although the elements of creating attention-grabbing messaging are simple enough, ensuring a judicious mix of short, pithy messaging, great UX, and narrative-driven rich media is the key to marketing success.  A unified approach to brand messaging plays a critical role in this – all organizational units speaking in one voice and tone across channels helps make the most of the company’s customer reach with deeper, more meaningful engagement.

Avinash Pattabhiram is a Marketing Manager with the Business Operations unit at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). He has seven years of experience in the areas of research, marketing, and consulting. Prior to the current role, Pattabhiram worked as an Energy Analyst, tracking energy trends and alternative energy markets. His research reports and articles have been published in many international journals and magazines. Pattabhiram holds a Masters degree in Thermal Engineering from the College of Engineering, Guindy, India, and a Management degree from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, India.