Catering to diminishing consumer attention spans

There was a time before Tivo when people got their information from television ads and infomercials, even managing to remain calm when their favorite soaps cut to ads every now and then. Legend has it that some even considered these recurring advertisements an integral, enjoyable part of the whole ‘lounge about watching TV’ routine, without which the experience felt incomplete. Bizarre, I know.

Fast forward a few generations and consumers now are nothing like the good patient folk of yore. We hardly have the time or the inclination to patiently sift through advertisement banners or those infuriating pop-outs that spring up and surprise us when we least expect them. We’d rather type in what we want ourselves, open the first few links that show up, pick the product off the best one and get back to more important stuff like YouTube writing blogs at work.


Micro attention spans are no joke, as this infographic from Wyzowl helpfully points out. We’re also reliably informed that this is lesser than a goldfish’s attention span by approximately one whole second. That does sound a bit serious, doesn’t it? So, if you’re a marketer, how exactly do you account for and adapt to these diminishing trends in people’s attention spans?

Rich media advertising

The first phase of an intelligent internet marketing strategy, where you optimize your ads for a wide audience. Your mobile audience, in particular, are notoriously less patient than the ones that browse your site, and it’s important to keep in mind that they’re not going to look at your ads or notifications for longer than 4-5 seconds, before getting back to whatever they were originally doing (A posh term for this would be multitasking). Mobile phones are the ultimate companion device, and it’s crucial to tailor your content appropriately to cater to this second screen syndrome.

For instance, Rich media push notifications, with dynamic images or videos, have been found to hold the user’s interest longer than your standard static Push. By engaging users with rich content, there’s a greater possibility of getting them interested in the ad in a shorter period of time. Marketing statistics back this up, such as this one that says more than 70% your potential customer base prefer to get information about your product through videos rather than plain text. Another scary stat claims that nearly 500 years’ worth of videos being watched on the internet everyday, confirming it’s status as a powerful marketing tool.


Personalization and brand advocacy – Here’s the part that comes after you’ve won your audience over. It’s becoming an accepted consensus that people tend to react with greater enthusiasm and more importantly, patience, to ads that contain personalized information and recommendations exclusively tailored to the their preferences. Segmenting users based on preferences or location is a great way to reach out to your audience personally. Even something quite straightforward like specific shopping suggestions based on user history does the trick of catching their attention quite effectively. The flip side of this, of course, is to stay careful not to exploit the channel to the point of frustrating your customer with untimely and irrelevant notifications, however individually customized these might be. Figuring out the right frequency is nearly half the job done.

Once you’ve generated certain goodwill with your first few trusted customers, it’s also a great idea to use that for subtle brand propagation. It’s widely accepted that people are more tolerant towards ads from companies that they already recognize through brand recall, or personal recommendations. These might sometimes not even be personal, as a wide range of people are increasingly becoming influenced by populist opinion on social media such as facebook or quora.

While this will happen increasingly naturally once you garner more satisfied customers, it’s also a good idea to customize your website with positive feedback. And no, we’re not talking about glorified marketing shills here. Reaching out to happy customers for testimonials and the occasional case study will lend an air of authenticity to your site, the sort of which grabs the user’s attention in the initial few seconds and forms a great first impression.

Making a great first impression has, after all, always been imperative, but ever-reducing customer tolerance makes it all the more important to revisit your content, personalize your ads and make sure you impress your target audience before they even get a chance to exercise their infamous impatience.

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