The Digital Economy Rewired Your Consumers’ Brains: 10 Tips For Engaging Them Now

Jesse Kalfel

Of all the ways the Internet has transformed our lives, there’s one change that surprises me most: our reading and communication habits. We are now a community of scanners, scrollers, and skimmers that spends more time interacting with screens than with each other. Letter writing has been reduced to tweets, emoticons, an alphabet soup of acronyms, and instant messaging. Even the Oxford Dictionary’s 2015 Word of the Year was the emoji “Face with Tears of Joy”!

Our digital environment has rewired how our brains consume and share information. People now read content to suit their purpose and find what they want without wasting time. In fact, most visitors only scroll halfway through a Web page – and only 16% of people still read them word for word.

Our attention span is down. Our impatience is up. And we’re easily distracted.

How can sales and marketing teams possibly hold peoples’ attention and keep them engaged? The key is understanding our rewired digital brains and knowing how to cut through the clutter.

10 ways to break through your consumers’ digital brains

Here are 10 steps that can help you get started – now.

1. Get your message out quickly and declutter to grab attention

Consumers will stay on your website long enough to see what’s offered if the content is relevant, engaging, and clear. By making your content stick in consumers’ brains, you can keep them engaged and encourage them to share this new-found knowledge. The key is knowing how much content is enough and whether it is eye catching and user friendly. And don’t be afraid to apply this to blogs, collateral, videos, and interactive demos.

2. Personalize and prove that you know your consumers

Use data-driven marketing to define your target audience and pinpoint what they worry about and want. Do not use a shotgun, one-size-fits-all approach. Draw on persona-based research to get a 360-degree understanding of your readers.

3. Stay tuned to all social media channels

Listen to what social media says about you, your competitors, and your industry by monitoring social channels. Not only will this information help fine-tune your persona research, but you can engage with consumers in discussions that are meaningful to them. For example, bounce off marketing or product ideas with your followers and open yourself up to their ideas as well. Drive people to your e-commerce site or other content that is interesting and relevant to them.

At all costs, do not self-promote. Rather, maintain a professional, thought-leadership approach that follows your brand’s communication and social media guidelines.

4. Keep your content concise and effective

People have become very adept at finding and consuming information quickly and efficiently. In turn, content consumers expect instant delivery of seamless, personalized, and hyper-relevant content at any moment.

There are 10 best practices that can help deliver this promise:

  1. Make your strategic message – and, most important content – visible at a glance, especially in titles, imagery, and tweetable statements
  1. Use short paragraphs and sentences
  1. Favor the use of familiar phrases and words over industry and corporate jargon
  1. Avoid passive tense whenever possible
  1. Write copy optimized for search
  1. Highlight keywords and use bulleted lists as appropriate
  1. Get rid of needless repetition
  1. Address your visitors directly
  1. Use links to related topics instead of overcrowding information
  1. Avoid content overkill

5. Select your tone of voice

The tone of your content helps define and differentiate your brand. How will your audience respond to the way you are talking to them? Do you want to create an emotional reaction or be conversational? What do you want them to know about your business and what it represents? Most of all, avoid marketing fluff and offer relevant information no matter what tone you use.

6. Create a brand bible and speak with one voice

Produce guidelines for all aspects of your company’s brand. This includes logo use, imagery, fonts, and colors as well as instructions on how to communicate across the entire business network. Consistency is vital to reinforcing your image.

7. Use images and video to complement your copy

Give your consumers an instant impression of your business and services. Through video, customers can see your brand story and value in a highly relatable and compelling way. Make sure videos and other graphical or rich media elements directly support your copy. Video is also trending for people who would rather see what you mean than read what you mean.

8. Keep it fresh and interactive

Your website and content are your company’s face to the world. Make sure it shows that your company is current on industry trends and actively engaged by regularly creating new content.

Make your website interactive to learn what content interests your readers. HTML-based assets create an interactive, participatory experience. Gamification can bring people into a new interactive experience. And quizzes, ROI, calculators, surveys, and contests can help you learn more about your audience while keeping things fun for your consumers. If appropriate, create a “try and buy” feature.

9. Assess and measure your content and delivery

With real-time analytics, you can track your visitors’ digital footprint, including time spent reading, bounce rates, and what content is of most interest. These stats can be fed back to sales and marketing for insight and follow-up on:

  • Content usefulness and relevance
  • Influences for better engagement
  • Findability and optimization of search results
  • Success metrics for the intended audience
  • Consistency with business priorities
  • Areas for improvement
  • Opportunities for monetization and new sales

10. Keep an eye on laptops, tablets, smartphones, and next-generation devices

People are using mobile devices more often than laptops, and for the marketplace that means a Web design that is clean, simple, and engaging. For example, adding hyperlinks to deeper content can guide people towards related topics. Choose fonts that are easy to read across devices and design every page as a landing page.

Smartphone use will continue to escalate, but you still need to be prepared for new devices as technology continues to advance. That’s why you need to create content that all audiences can view and interact with – no matter which device they use. Make sure your website can detect all devices and format content accordingly.

From distracted to engaged: A marketer’s dream come true

As attention spans shrink from minutes to mere seconds, giving consumers a reason to stay for more than a few seconds is getting harder. Slow Web page loads, cluttered content, confusing navigation, limited interaction – these are the attention killers.

If consumers are not engaged quickly, they jump off to something else. Worse yet, that can be to a competitor’s website. Can your content keep them engaged and ready to purchase? Maybe it’s time to take a look at your content and see if any of these tips can move your audience from distracted to engaged and loyal.

Gather more expert insight on how to differentiate your organization in this dynamic new environment in  The Digital Economy: Disruption, Transformation, Opportunity.


Jesse Kalfel

About Jesse Kalfel

Jesse Kalfel is the Senior Director of Creative Services, Studio SAP, Global Marketing Communications at SAP. His specialties include marketing communications, strategic planning, demand generation, go-to-market strategy and product marketing. He has won two Hatch Awards, has published numerous articles, and focuses on how in age of our "digital brains" how to make content snackable and more consumable.