To overcome the limitations of the Internet, marketers rely on practices that unwittingly feed what could be called consumer attention deficit disorder.
What is consumer ADD? It's a scenario that both marketers and consumers have learned to live with, but not necessarily like. Because third-party Web sites limit a brand's presentation, marketers have resorted to enticing prospects to take a journey, leaving the site they're on to visit the brand-owned Web site, where they can receive a richer brand experience.
The distraction, diversion, and ultimate journey itself has "trained" consumers to act and react in ways that are not always desirable. But today, technology presents an antidote to the chaos, by providing an alternative that connects the brand and consumer in ways everyone will like.
A Model for Distraction
Marketers spend $100 billion annually operating on the notion that consumers want to journey to a brand-owned "destination." But the process actually belies efficiency on many levels. Let's consider the steps toward customer engagement: First, marketers will wave their arms and distract. Got their attention? Well good, because they'll need a lot of patience for the next step. Second, marketers ask people to click on a link that takes them away from what and where they're currently engaged to the brand's marketing site. Now here's where it gets tricky:
People don't trust links. There are several reasons for this:
- They could be dragged to a place they don't like, or worse, be exposed to a virus.
- Links are often broken or out of date.
- Getting to the specific item or topic of interest can take multiple steps.
Today, people have short attention spans and, as a result, can often get "lost" in this process. Think of how many times you've started searching for something online, only to poke your head up an hour later to discover yourself looking at totally unrelated content. Taking people on this kind of rabbit trail poses a considerable challenge for acquiring customers already predisposed to lack focus.
The Cost of Marketing Twice
Getting prospects to stay attentive and follow this long journey has not been effective. Marketers spend more resources on driving people to their messages than on the messages themselves. That's because they market twice: once to get people to the brand site, and then again to actually engage them once they get there. This is a publisher's nightmare too. Publishers want people to stay on their site, because once consumers leave a site, it's very difficult to get them back.
Reducing Digital Distance
The technology available today can change all of this by presenting new ways for marketers to engage consumers in a rich, complete brand experience at the very first touch point. Marketers need to deliver relevant content—in an engaging and entertaining manner—at the precise moment when people are the most receptive to it. This calls for a new Internet marketing model that reduces the digital distance—the distance a customer journeys, as measured in the number of steps it takes from initial interest to meaningful engagement with the brand.
Consider the following example (a real-world case), where an apparel brand is featured in an online story. Once the brand captured interest on the featured product, consumers were led through a total of six steps before getting to the point of purchase. This path was both inefficient and costly: Each subsequent click results in an attrition rate of two-thirds of the remaining prospects. By the time the actual offer is reached, most of the audience has been lost along the way.
Today's technology provides the potential for prospects to receive a positive, interactive experience at the very first touch point, in the midst of the third-party Web site, without ever leaving to receive the experience. This dramatically changes the game by delivering an experience at the exact time and place prospects are most attentive and receptive to it, without the distraction and diversion of having to leave the original Web site.
Engaging Content in Context
Instead of making prospects divert to another location, why not entertain and inform them right where they are? This provides the distinct advantage of increasing relevance of branded content by connecting it with the context of the third-party site. According to the Chief Marketing Officer Council's recent research findings, this can be a defining element for impacting trust—and driving performance—across the purchase funnel.
B2B marketers alone spend $16.6 billion annually in content publishing to acquire leads, educate, and influence customers, but generally lack the delivery network to make this effective. As a result, brand-generated content ranks low on trust and relevance—factors that customers reveal as critical elements of the purchase decision.
In addition to how you deliver content, what you deliver matters as well. In a world where even our news has become "infotainment," why not make your branded content captivating too? By delivering multiple layers of content that doesn't just sell, but engages at various points along the customer journey, we can potentially reduce the risk of losing prospects to distraction.
Technology can solve the problem with a user experience that is not only seamless, but captivating. Now that's a better brand experience with a payoff for everyone.
Michael Weissman is chairman and CEO of SYNQY, a company that lets marketers deliver and control brand experiences on Web sites they do not own. He has 25 years of high-technology marketing experience.