Be honest – how often are you binging Netflix with your email open on your laptop, while scrolling through Instagram on your phone? (I do that while my martech software is auto-generating a report and I’m arguing with a team member on whose fault it is that a client’s revenue targets haven’t been met.)
It’s shocking how people these days divide their focus across multiple screens and platforms all at the same time.
That said, grabbing and retaining the customer’s mindshare — when multi-tasking is at its highest and attention spans are at their lowest — is a constant battle for brands and companies attempting to stay relevant and present with their buyers.
Here are some ideas that currently work for the brands I consult with. These strategies will help you effectively engage and retain your customers’ interest in a world where it’s crucial to deliver the right brand messaging that cuts through the excess noise and information overload.
1. Offer Snackable Content
Engaging an increasingly distracted audience requires a strategy known as “content snacking”: small, clear, highly relevant nuggets of information that people can consume on the move.
Think about it: You’re on your phone while standing in line at the grocery store, sitting in the waiting room for an appointment, or in an Uber cruising to your next destination — how much information are you consuming other than the task at hand? It happens ALL the time, and bite-sized media pieces are the easiest to digest when time (and attention) is limited.
Feeding your audience relevant, visual, and attention-grabbing content such as videos on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook let you deliver mini brand messages that are absorbable in spurts. Digital, snackable content is most valuable when tailored to the mobile user or, better yet, when it is created by users themselves.
Aerie (American Eagle Outfitters’ sister brand) has reinforced its identity via its “Aerie Real” campaign by featuring “unretouched” brand ambassadors and real-life customers in short, highly relatable videos on its social media platforms.
By keeping the clips to around 30 seconds or less, Aerie can hold viewers’ attention, convey a strong brand message, and build an emotional connection with its audience while simultaneously showcasing its apparel.
If videos or GIFS aren’t right for your message, text-based content should be clear, concise, and easy to skim. Bullet points or numbered lists will always work in your favor.
As long as you’re producing a strong, creative narrative that is in line with your audience’s interests, you have a shot at maximizing its impact.
2. Know That Email Is Still Relevant (Believe It or Not)
Generation Z (anyone born in the late 1990s and early 2000s) is not bringing the apocalyptic end to retail — or your current marketing strategy. The demographic cohort, also known as iGen, is one of the largest consumer segments in the U.S. today, with a direct purchasing power of up to $143 billion.
Generation Z has grown up surrounded by screens and an excess of information, but while headlines continue to claim that humans have the attention span of a goldfish, we’ve actually just adapted into highly evolved filtering systems.
Millennials and Gen Z were born into a world of limitless options and constant connectivity. It’s not that they’re unable to stay focused, but, rather, it’s that they are subconsciously identifying what is worth their time and attention while being acutely aware they are being sold to at all times.
In an age where it feels like social media is ruling the world, email is far from dead. Studies show that more than 80% of Gen Z check their email at least once every day, the majority multiple times a day. Not even 1% admitted to never using email.
Since we already know that email is one of the channels with the highest ROI, you can continue to target your audience with personalized email campaigns.
Take Spotify, for example. The email below demonstrates a call-to-action based on the user’s listening history paired with an exclusive reward (access to a presale event).
Source: Author’s inbox
Furthermore, the email reinforces continued support and engagement by addressing a newly released single available on the streaming service. Without sounding like it is nagging or selling anything, Spotify gently reminds the user the benefit of the service and of being an active customer.
Remember, ROI (return on interest) is just as important as ROI (return on investment).
3. Use AI-Based Personalization
A creative, personalized marketing campaign is the key to the customer castle. Luckily, there are mountains of data available to take personalization to a whole new level. Thanks to advances in marketing technology, gone are the days of manually sifting through campaign insights only to apply them past their expiration date. Enter artificial intelligence (AI).
AI is an umbrella term that refers to any type (or part) of software engaging in human-like learning activities. It is highly effective in personalizing the customer journey across multiple channels.
The growth of AI allows marketers to rapidly analyze large amounts of data and “learn” from it faster and more effectively than humans can. It lets businesses retain the competitive edge, connecting and engaging with their customers in real time.
AI can predict buying habits by identifying underlying patterns in shopping behavior, from the quantity and type of previously purchased products to the medium of the sale and the payment method of the transaction.
Take grocery shopping, for example. Through smart-shelf technology and a partnership with Microsoft, Kroger is using its new mobile app and “digital shelves” to revolutionize the shopping experience and send customized pricing and products to users. With this new system, shoppers can input their needs into the app, and digital displays installed in the aisles flash a customer-chosen icon to quickly direct them to the next item on their list.
Additionally, Kroger has rolled out a virtual assistant app to promote healthier eating and support the health and wellness of customers. By analyzing consumer data linked to loyalty cards, the app can identify their brand and food preferences and assist them in making healthier choices.
With AI technology slowly closing the gap between the physical and digital worlds, retailers can apply learnings and use predictive analytics to forecast demand and provide a better, more personalized customer experience.
4. Develop Social Responsibility and Green Marketing Strategies
Today’s consumers are not just aware of our growing environmental issues; they are actively choosing to support and engage with brands and companies doing their part to protect the social and environmental health of our world.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an evolving practice that weaves sustainable development into an overall business model. That, paired with green marketing (the marketing of environmentally friendly products and/or services) aims to implement sustainable business practices, reduce excess or unnecessary waste (energy, water, transportation, packaging, etc.), and demonstrate social awareness in all aspects of the business.
In addition to being the right thing to do, CSR is becoming a priority for stakeholders, employees, and consumers alike when aligning with a company. According to a report by Cone Communications, 79% of consumers surveyed consciously seek out products and companies that are socially and environmentally responsible. Moreover, 88% said they would actively boycott companies with irresponsible business practices.
Google is an excellent example of a for-profit company committed to CSR. In 2017, the company hit its goal of being 100% powered by renewable energy — becoming the largest corporate renewable energy purchaser in the world. Google also facilitates green commuting for employees, gives paid time off for volunteer hours, and matches employee donations to charities.
Actively weaving CSR into your business is crucial not just for the lifespan of the planet, but also the lifespan of your bottom line. If strategically developed and properly implemented, a CSR program can enhance a brand’s positive image in the marketplace. However, just like saving the planet, it’s not a quick fix but rather a long-term endeavor that will pay off over time.
Keep Your Audience Engaged and Interested
Think of short consumer attention spans as an opportunity to provide sharp, creative, brief, and relatable content that cuts through the clutter to capture and hold your customers’ attention.
From snackable content to a business model that saves our planet, there are many ways to connect and engage with (and sell to) your audience.