How Information Overload Impacts Your Business

Jake Sapirstein

When I was in college – too long ago – I took some Social Psychology classes.  Fast-forward to the hyper-connected digital world we live in today (where I have immersed myself in online testing for years now); it is starting to feel like another Social Psychology class, simply in a different era.

What has changed most dramatically from the Binary worldice age to the device age  is our concept of being “busy.” Being busy before had to do with how many errands we had to do, how much work we have to catch up on at school – discreet things that you can point to and add up.  Being busy today is just a constant.  Why?  We have access to so much information – with our laptops and smaller devices stalking us, we are swimming in information.  Simply put, this makes us “busy.”

I am in the business of conversion optimization, and the challenge is to figure out how to get someone to convert in this busy world.  Buy the product, download the white paper, watch the demo – click that button, gosh darn it.  The challenge today is that people are so overloaded with information that from the standpoint of a business trying to get someone to engage with you, time is short.  Facebook is calling them, LinkedIn is knocking on their door, they need to make a reservation on OpenTable, their phone is illuminating with alerts from Foursquare; they are busy.

Now it is time to turn this busy concept on its head and make it work in your favor. How? Design and write copy with this notion of information overload in mind. Chunk your concept into nice bite-size pieces with abundant spacing to give your visitor’s mind a chance to rest and focus. Don’t throw too much at them – visitors can sense “level of effort” on digesting a page nearly instantly. If you have too many things competing for their attention, they will be gone before you capture their attention.

On mobile, narrowing focus on an end goal becomes even more paramount. The good people at WhichTestWon just documented an interesting example in which a storage company actually saw a decline in their conversion rate on mobile devices when providing a link to a resource to help their visitors better understand storage space sizes. More information, more helpful, less business. More options, more decisions, less business. Sometimes less is more.

I have been testing landing pages quite a bit lately, and similarly, when the presentation of the content is simpler to consume – ample spacing, discreet chunks of copy, few themes or offers competing for visitors’ attention – I see people moving forward and converting at a much higher rate.

Assume your target is busy and design accordingly. For those in conversion optimization, information overload is a big challenge – but when you focus on this concept from the initial design stage, you can turn it into a competitive advantage.

To many, the digital economy is still an answer trying to find the right question. Some fresh thinking may be necessary to leverage the opportunity. See Digital Economy: Connecting More Than Devices.


About Jake Sapirstein

Jake Sapirstein is the Senior Director of Digital Marketing and Head of Innovation Lab at SAP. Launched in 2011 as SAP Test Lab, the program has become a comprehensive testing and optimization engine that uncovers and communicates valuable insights. In 2014, the program has evolved into Innovation Lab, where it additionally serves as a platform to test and validate innovation projects.