How Your Startup Can Survive the Goldfish Economy

How Your Startup Can Survive the Goldfish Economy

Microsoft recently conducted a study that surveyed 2,000 people and studied the brain activity of 112 additional people with electroencephalograms (EEGs). One of the study’s key findings is that our attention span is rapidly declining: the average human now has an attention span of eight seconds, compared to an attention span of 12 seconds in the year 2000. For comparison, a goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds.

Interestingly, the future doesn’t sound promising, too: A similar study by Jampp delivers more shocking news, reporting an 88 percent decrease in attention span on a yearly basis, and a recent study by psychologists at Indiana University found that when parents or caregivers get distracted due to technology (which pretty much happens all the time these days), the infants they raise have lower attention spans.

While the constant innovation we’ve been witnessing — computers, mobile innovations and now IoT — is a good thing, there are actual implications when it comes to the interpersonal aspect of things.

Attention is becoming increasingly scarce, and it is no longer business as usual. I like to call this the “goldfish economy.” In the goldfish economy, startups need to evolve how they try to gain people’s attention. Here are some tips to help you startup survive declining attention spans:

Embrace a Mobile and Apps First Approach

While attention span is declining, it isn’t completely disappearing. It is just shifting elsewhere. As research continues to observe a decline in attention spans, studies show that people are increasingly focusing their attention elsewhere — specifically mobile devices. The same Microsoft study that observed declining attention spans noted significantly increased interactions with mobile devices. Specifically, the study noted the following addictive behavior among people aged 18 – 24:

  • 52 percent check their mobile phone at least once every 30 minutes.
  • 73 percent check their mobile phone last thing before going to bed.
  • 79 percent use mobile devices while watching TV.
  • 77 percent reach for their phone first thing when nothing is occupying their attention.

A similar study by KPCB reports that 87 percent of millennials (18 – 34) report never separating from their mobile devices, research from Movable Ink — that analyzed 6.03 billion emails — found that 68 percent of emails were opened on mobile devices — and data from comScore reveal that mobile apps account for over 56 percent of all digital time. Not surprisingly, the majority of Facebook’s user base consists of mobile users — with 80 percent of their revenue coming from mobile.

In the goldfish economy, where attention is scarce, having a solid mobile strategy isn’t an option — it is a necessity. In fact, indications show that mobile and apps users should be given prominence over general desktop internet users.

That said, mobile and apps aren’t an automatic solution to declining attention spans. It is common sense that when attention is scarce, you try to get it first where it is most common — right now, that place is in mobile and apps. However, people still value their time on mobile devices, and they won’t tolerate an experience that will delay them. AppsDynamics’ recent “App Attention Span” study found that 90 percent of people have stopped using an app due to performance issues.

Leverage Multi-Channel and Repetitive Marketing

When attention is scarce, the importance of repetitive marketing and a multi-channel approach to getting your message across to your audience can’t be overstated. First, to know how this works we need to go down memory lane to the year 1967, when Charles Goetzinger, a professor at Oregon State University, tried to prove a point. The professor had a mysterious student attend class enveloped in a big black bag. Other students could only see this student’s bare feet. Not surprisingly, the students initially developed hostility towards the “weird” student in the black bag. However, something happened as this experiment continued over a period months: the feelings of the other students gradually changed from hostility, to curiosity and likability. It is what psychologists call the Mere Exposure Effect, and it states that repeated exposure to something gets us to notice and like it.

Not surprisingly, a study by scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that successful brands have mastered a way of getting us to notice their products without us even noticing that we’re being repeatedly advertised to. That phone that most of the cast of your favorite TV show are using — that you suddenly desire — wasn’t coincidentally used. It’s probably a carefully placed ad, and it is working.

This points to the effectiveness of repetitive marketing (called the rule of 7 by direct marketers) and it is premised on the fact that people have to see your offer a lot of times to take notice of it.

Now, more than ever (thanks to rapidly declining attention spans!), repetitive marketing should be a great tool in your arsenal and you should create a strategy based on a multi-channel approach to marketing.

Ensure an Overall Faster Experience on Your Website

More importantly, you can’t afford to have a slow website and user experience.

Speed is what drives action and adoption in the goldfish economy; speed of delivery, speed of processing, and speed in every other area. Several studies have monitored the impact speed has on businesses, and they always come with shocking findings. A particular study based on real time data from 33 major retailers found that improving site load time from eight to two seconds boosted conversion rates by 74 percent. Some other interesting findings about site speed are:

  • A page that took six seconds to load in 2010 resulted in a 40 percent loss in conversion. A page that takes six seconds to load today will result in a 50 percent loss in conversion.
  • 40 percent of people will abandon a website that takes longer than three seconds to load.
  • 51 percent of people abandon a purchase due to slow website load times.
  • A one second delay in site load time can result in a 7 percent loss in conversions.

At the end of the day, especially for startups, speed matters a great deal. Here are some tips:

  • Optimize your website, mobile site and app experience to be fast for users.
  • Optimize the checkout experience to make transactions faster and seamless. Limit the checkout process and form fields, and remove every unnecessary step.
  • Reduce checkout steps to the barest minimum to ensure a boost in conversions; once you’ve gotten the sales, you can always get additional information later.

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This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

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