Do These 3 Things To Catch, and Keep, Your Consumers’ Attention

Throughout the Internet age, we have witnessed a swift decline in the attention span of the average US consumer. What was once a mere 12-seconds in 2000, fell to 8-seconds by 2010, and most recently, it has been reported at an all-time low of 5 seconds. With each new technological advancement, our lives become more efficient and our patience further wanes, which begs the question: if we continue at this pace, will attention spans be completely non-existent by 2030?

While certain death of the attention span may not be imminent, there’s no doubt that as marketers, we have less time than ever to win over consumers with that first impression. So rather than wait for consumer attentions to dip ever further before acting, here are three things brands should do today to combat declining attention spans tomorrow.

1. Invest in a frictionless customer experience

These days, customer loyalty cannot be taken for granted. Over 80 percent of customers today will drop a brand after just one bad experience, regardless of any past history with that brand. This is where lagging attention spans can really make a difference. You see, customers hate playing the waiting game. The longer you make them wait, the more likely they are to turn their attention (and loyalty) to brands that offer an efficient and frictionless customer experience.

This isn’t to say that you must provide an answer to your customer’s query in just 5-seconds, but the brands that promptly acknowledge such requests within seconds see far more success than those who don’t. This is likely why the majority of marketers and sales professionals leverage automated tools, like chatbots as a primary connection point with customers. Used properly, these technologies can help organizations manage conversations at scale, ensuring the end customer feels heard while the CX team prioritizes queries needing a more personal touch.

While something like chatbots can keep the attention of your customer on the promise of efficient communication with your brand, it’s still imperative to deliver an “immediate” resolution to their query–and it turns out that customers aren’t that subjective when it comes to how they define “immediate,” either. For most customers, patience disappears after just 10 minutes, with a whopping 90 percent of customers expecting a solution to their problem within that timespan. No pressure.

Providing answers quickly isn’t the only expectation organizations need to meet to deliver a frictionless experience to customers. Even while you are working tirelessly to earn the attention of your customers, they still expect undevided attention from brands. Customers don’t want to wait on hold, nor do they want to repeat themselves to multiple service reps in the process. To solve for this, your organization should adopt an unified communications system that ensures nothing is lost in translation when a customer moves from automated communication systems to a real-life service rep.

2. Provide more than one path to a solution

Organizations hoping to deliver an efficient experience for their customers need to invest in far more than automation and labor. Companies that provide customers with multiple paths to a solution can benefit from the decline in attention spans rather than a fall victim to it. This is because buying behavior has drastically changed as attention spans have splintered. In the year 2000, the average consumer required two touchpoints when making a purchase decision; Today, consumers seek an average of six touchpoints before making a purchase. Brands looking to compete now must adopt an omnichannel approach to marketing, sales, and customer service.

Businesses that prioritize CX use an average of 13 unique channels when engaging customers along the buying journey. Some examples include:

  • Website resources (think FAQs, how-to guides, forums, and videos) Provide an opportunity for the self-guided customer to find answers to common queries without engaging a service team.
  • Email campaigns can nurture consumer education around common questions over time, with one-click contact options for customers requiring further assistance.
  • Website contact forms are often the first places customers look when seeking support if direct contact information (like the customer service phone number or email) is not made available.

  • Younger generations continue to show a preference for using Facebook Messenger and Twitter when seeking customer service because these channels feel faster than most, and because the nature of these social platforms demand accountability from brands to respond (and consequences when they don’t).
  • Despite adopting myriad digital solutions to connect, at least 39 percent of customers still prefer to connect with brands via the phone when considering a purchase and 48 percent prefer it when seeking customer service.

Of course, it’s important to note that an omnichannel approach can prove detrimental if customers feel. This is likely why 93 percent of consumers are apt to spend more with brands that keeps conversations between channels seamless, ensuring customers don’t need to repeat information.

3. Stop relying on text to communicate value when it takes 8 seconds to comprehend

As attention spans have gone down, demand for visual media has increased significantly. The average reader takes roughly 8 seconds (or 33 percent more time than the average attention span) to comprehend a single sentence of text. In other words, you can no longer rely on a catchy headline to capture the attention of your audience. Visual content, on the other hand, is 60,000 times more likely to hook your audience at the onset.

Unlike reading, visual communication is innate. In fact, our brains are hardwired to comprehend visual information in just 1/10th of a second. When faced with a nearly infinite world of screens, apps, people, and more competing for our attention, it makes sense that the human brain would prioritize that which is easiest to consume. As a result, the average consumer seeks out visual information above all else. When visiting a website, for example, consumers will first look for video content. In the absence of video, they will seek out visual content like infographics, data visualizations, and simple diagrams to answer their questions–and only in the absence of visual information will a user, begrudgingly, skim the text.

Brands that prioritize a visual strategy in all forms of customer communication often triple their business growth simply because audiences have such limited attention spans. But it would be a shame to lose precious seconds of attention span while waiting for your website to load, so make sure your visual content is optimized to load in under a second. If you’re struggling with this, consider using a service like Cloudinary that can drastically decrease load times for even the most visually rich sites.

Today more than ever, time truly is money

In the coming years, new innovations will continue to distract and divide consumer attention for better and for worse. The efficiencies gained from these experiences will shift consumer expectations of brand interactions. Organizations may choose to fight it, long for the days when building a relationship with customers spurned longtime loyalty. Or they will choose to adapt, embracing a world in which speed communications respect and delivers immediate value to those with so few precious seconds to spare.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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