The Attention War was first brought to the fore in a 2012 Forbes article to signal the start of competition for the consumers’ attention when Facebook hit the 1-billion user base. Since then, social media and smartphones have been blamed for the declining attention span among people.
While the claim that humans’ 8-second attention span was less than that of a goldfish has long been debunked, recent research supports the declining attention span of people.
A major new survey of the UK public by the Policy Institute and Center for Attention Studies at King’s College London reveals that people are more likely than not to feel their attention span is shorter than it used to be (49 percent vs 23 percent).
Another recent study from the Technical University of Denmark suggests the collective global attention span is narrowing due to the amount of information that is presented to the public. The study shows that people now have more things to focus on — but often focus on things for short periods of time.
With the rise of short-form content, the ubiquity of digital platforms and the popularity of new social media platforms like TikTok, the consumer’s attention span is sure to impact customer experience (CX). A 2011 study by the American Psychological Association revealed that overuse of technology harms the brain systems connecting emotional processing, attention and decision-making — foretelling that CX is affected by the buyers’ emotional state, attention span and decision-making quality.
Indeed, CX is the totality of cognitive, sensory and behavioral consumer responses during the entirety of the consumption process for a product or service, including pre-purchase, consumption and post-purchase stages. The overall experience reflects the emotional state of the buyer — how he or she feels about the company and its offerings, highlighting how important the emotion, attention, and decision-making of the buyer are.
Since attention is a factor that can be influenced by the CX practitioner, it is important to learn and understand key concepts about this subject.
Psychologists define attention, based on verywellmind.com, as “the ability to actively process specific information in the environment while tuning out other details. Attention is limited in terms of both capacity and duration, so it is important to have ways to effectively manage the attentional resources we have available in order to make sense of the world.” Consumers pay attention to a company’s website ad, email promotions, proposal or presentation of a salesperson. It is limited both in terms of capacity and duration and selective as a person needs to select on what and where to focus.
Scientists discovered that there are distinct types of attention based on how the mind processes the information and the context:
– Sustained attention is our ability to focus on something for periods of time without being distracted of time;
– Selective attention is our ability to focus on something in particular while there are many other distractions around us; and
– Divided attention is our ability to split our attention between two or more things at once which takes place during multitasking.
The goal of CX practitioners, therefore, is to achieve sustained attention from buyers and consumers when they go through the experience of interacting with the touch points along the customer journey.
In our consulting work, we prescribe that in order to achieve sustained attention from consumers, it is important to identify their needs, wants and fears. Since a person’s emotion, attention and decision-making are inextricably linked, deliberately addressing these needs, wants and fears with the right messaging, the right campaigns, and the right conversations will greatly improve CX.
To help CX practitioners, we employ Bain and Company’s Elements of Value Pyramid, which illustrates that products and services deliver fundamental elements of value that address four kinds of needs: functional, emotional, life changing and social impact. In general, the more needs addressed, the better the CX, the greater customers’ loyalty and the higher the company’s sustained growth.
In this framework, the emotional needs consist of the following: reduces anxiety, rewards me, nostalgia, design or aesthetics, wellness, therapeutic value, fun and entertainment, attractiveness, and provides access. By identifying the needs of the customer through interviews and adapting the messaging and campaigns to address these needs, then attention will be sustained.
The war for attention has now been elevated to a war for CX.
The author is the founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse Consulting, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is the chairman of the Information and Communications Technology Committee of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX). He is a fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org