How to Build a Thriving Business in a World of Declining Attention Spans

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Busy people

Busy people

Now is the best and worst time to start a business in history.

Now is the best time to start a business because, thanks to the internet and technology, we have more opportunity to reach people from anywhere in the world on a global scale. It is the worst time to start a business because, while there are more opportunities and resources to reach out to people and make our offer, attention is becoming increasingly scarce. In fact, various studies have revealed that our attention span at this point in time is shorter than ever before in history, and it is increasingly declining.

In 2015, Microsoft conducted a study to find out the impact technology has had on human attention span. The study surveyed 2,000 people and monitored the brain activity of 112 additional people using electroencephalograms (EEGs). The results were shocking! The study found that the average human now has an attention span of eight seconds — a decline from an average attention span of 12 seconds in the year 2000. More interestingly, the study also found that we now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish (goldfishes have an attention span of nine seconds!).

The implications of declining human attention span for many businesses go beyond what many of us realize. Here are some interesting statistics on the impact a slow website (thanks to increasingly impatient users!) can have on your business:

  • 51 percent of online shoppers will abandon a purchase due to a slow website.
  • A two-second delay in load time during a transaction leads to cart abandonment rate of up to 87 percent (compared to the average abandonment rate of 70 percent).
  • Slow loading websites cost the US eCommerce market more than $3 billion annually.
  • A one-second delay in website load time can cost you up to 7 percent in conversions.
  • 40 percent of people will abandon a website that takes longer than three seconds to load.

As you can see, despite the fact that we have near endless ways to reach people irrespective of where they are in the world, speed of delivery matters a great deal too. Here are some tips to help you build a thriving business despite decreasing attention spans.

1. Capitalize on Mobile Internet Users

Every cloud has a silver lining. While the average human attention span is declining, the fact remains that attention is simply shifting elsewhere. One of the key highlights of the Microsoft study is that we now spend most of our day on our mobile phones. The study revealed the following behavior among people aged 18 to 24:

  • 77 percent of people reach for their phone immediately when nothing is occupying their attention.
  • 52 percent of people check their phone at least every 30 minutes.
  • 73 percent of people check their phones last thing before going to bed.
  • 79 percent of people use their mobile devices while watching the TV.

Mobile devices play more of a role in driving internet interactions and commerce than many business owners realize — thanks to their ubiquity and ease of use. In fact, research shows that in 2015 alone, mobile internet use influenced retail sales to the tune of over $1 trillion. More so, data from Internet Retailer shows that mobile commerce is responsible for 30 percent of all e-commerce revenue.

If you don’t have a mobile commerce strategy, it is time to embrace one. Here are some tips:

  • Build a mobile-friendly site. Not only will this boost your direct traffic and search traffic (as Google and most search engines now penalize mobile-unfriendly websites) but it will also boost sales.
  • Work on a mobile checkout system. It won’t make much of a difference on your bottom line if people can visit your site on a mobile device but can’t comfortably carry out transactions with their mobile devices.
  • Effectively optimize your emails for mobile devices. It is important to take control of your marketing activities even outside of your site; research shows that 75 percent of emails that can’t be read on smartphones are deleted.

2. Capitalize on Mobile App Users

The sequel to the recommendation to focus on the mobile experience is to optimize your mobile app experience for users.

We now make use of apps for pretty much everything, and having your app on their phone enables users to interact with your brand without necessarily having to visit your website.

According to research by Comscore, mobile apps now account for 56 percent of all internet traffic — a number that is rapidly increasing. Not only will users prefer to have your app installed if they heavily interact with your site, but it will make more business sense for you.

3. Avoid the Hit and Miss Approach to Marketing

When attention is scarce, you want to make the best of every opportunity and ensure that your offers are consistently introduced to your prospects. Some sources claim that we’re exposed to as many as 5,000 ads daily. How do you get your message to be noticed by someone who potentially sees as many as 5,000 ads in one day?

Repeat it. Repetition is deeply rooted in psychology as a powerful way to get something noticed and liked, and it is especially effective in a world of declining attention spans. In fact, a study found that by being exposed to brand ads — even when we are not really conscious of this fact (for example, certain products being carefully and strategically placed in TV shows) — that we tend to develop a preference for certain products over others.

A practical way to apply this to your business is to use the Rule of 7: simply put, the Rule of 7 is a marketing principle that says that most people need to see your marketing offer at least seven times before taking note of it. More is always better, and you’ll probably need to get people to see your offer more than seven times as attention spans continue to decline.

The solution is to embrace a multi-channel marketing approach: use as many channels as possible, both online and offline, to get your message across to your prospects. More importantly, build a prospect list that allows you to repeatedly get in touch with prospects, and watch your sales soar as a result.

4. Use Hyper-Targeting to Boost Sales and Make Customers More Loyal to Your Brand

Attention is too scarce for you to be wasting time advertising diapers to someone who needs jewelry. If you run an online business that has several offerings and products catering to different sets of people, you want to carefully segment your audience so that you can target the right offer to the right people. Data from Marketing Sherpa shows that targeting can improve conversions by up to 208 percent.

Don’t just lump all your users in one category. Instead, carefully monitor their behavior and activities on your site and use this information to segment them based on interest; you can then send them relevant offers based on their interests. Not only will this be more welcomed, but it’s a guaranteed way to get their attention and make them to notice you out of all the noise trying to foist irrelevant offers on them.

Joseph OlaJoseph Ola
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Joseph Ola is a freelance tech writer from one of Africa's biggest countries. You can hire him by visiting his website at Your Tech Writer.

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