Modern Marketing Blog

Digital marketing: How to reach today’s distracted consumer

October 2, 2013 By: Simon Robinson

30 seconds. It’s not a long time, is it? It’s not enough time to make a coffee or a sandwich, or to withdraw cash from some ATMs. And yet research commissioned by Responsys and carried out by YouGov shows that 30 seconds or less is the length of time that typical consumers spend absorbing digital marketing content online at any one time.

The results of YouGov’s poll of 2,000 adults show that brands have a very limited time in which to capture the attention of an online audience, which has more distractions vying for its time than ever before.

Here are three key take-aways from the research:

1. Email beats SMS and social for most engaging channel

Despite being one of the more traditional, long-standing channels, email fared well in the research with 50% of consumers spending between five and 30 seconds on average on emails from brands. This suggests that the unobtrusive, opt-in nature of email is still highly valued. Only 32% of consumers spend the same amount of time on marketing SMS messages and incoming social posts from brands are less likely to be properly digested with 27% of consumers spending the same amount of time reading tweets, Facebook posts or content delivered via other social channels.

This is perhaps surprising, considering the popularity of social media and its potential for building engagement as part of a cross-channel strategy.

2. It’s harder than ever for marketers to break through the ‘noise'

We think shorter attention spans are a symptom of changing consumer behaviour and the proliferation of new channels. Modern consumers are constantly plugged into tablets, smartphones, laptops, connected TVs, and gaming consoles. We have such a wide variety of accessible and “always-on” distractions available to us that it’s becoming harder and harder for consumers to focus on one thing. Nearly half of respondents (49%) receive between two and 10 marketing emails every single day, and all this “noise” means marketers have to work harder to get their messages across and build engagement.

3. Dual screening has become the norm

Whether it’s email, a text message or a tweet, there are always multiple distractions vying for our attention. Dual screening is evidence of this and the research showed that 44% of adults engage in this activity at least once per week. Consumers aged 25-34 were the most likely to dual screen, with 26% of this age bracket using a second screen while watching TV every single day. The prevalence of this trend with younger consumers indicates that it’s likely to stick around, meaning that this is going to be a long-term challenge for marketers.

In summary, the overarching message of the research is that with increasingly busy lives and the ever-present distractions of portable devices, the web and social media, consumers are more selective about which brands and messages they consider to be worthy of their time. So what’s the solution?

In light of these challenges, brands have to use data to really understand their customers, deliver individualised experiences and continue to engage with existing customers to build strong relationships across the entire customer lifecycle. Mass marketing techniques no longer cut it. Distracted consumers want to receive content that is highly relevant, delivered via their preferred channel, at the right time. The test for brands is to create these individualised, one-to-one experiences at scale.

For more information on engaging with distracted consumers and a more in-depth look at all the survey findings, download the full whitepaper here.

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