The Inattentive Consumer: How To Break Through To Mobile Subscribers

As marketers, we have put a strong focus on building mobile programs over the past few years. We have learned that 80% of smartphone users won’t leave home without their smartphones, creating an abundance of opportunities for us to reach subscribers anytime, anywhere. They use their phones everywhere: at home, while traveling, in stores, at restaurants, while waiting at the doctor’s office, etc.

However, we also know that 86% of smartphone users are multitasking when they’re on their phones (rather than giving their undivided attention to our carefully crafted marketing campaigns). People are inundated with information every day, but can only process so much of it. They are consciously and unconsciously prioritizing the information coming at them. How does our brand fit into their experience?

The psychologist William James developed a “Model of Awareness" in which there are two major levels of awareness: the definite and the vague. He further categorized varying stages of vague awareness. Here are the five we should think about when talking to our consumers:



1.  Normal. When our attention is focused on a single task -- for example, when we’re playing a game.

2.  Concentrated. When our attention is a bit more removed than normal, we’re focused on blocking out distractions, but not necessarily fully focused.

3.  Selective. When we are unconsciously blocking stimuli. Think of this in terms of "banner blindness:" we’re playing a game and not noticing banner ads.

4.  Alternating. When we shift our attention between multiple tasks: writing an email and checking the score of a basketball game.

5.  Divided. When a lot of things are happening around us, and we may be engaging superficially with multiple things, but we aren’t truly paying attention to anything.

As marketers, we don’t know our customers’ level of awareness when we send emails to them, yet our task is to pique their interest enough to pull them away from whatever they are doing and give us some of their attention. In order for this to work, our approach must feel highly relevant.

Smartphones are very personal devices. People could be trying to relax when their phone buzzes from their pocket, or tabletop, and our message needs to be something that they want to see at that moment -- something that respects the fact that they’re allowing us to communicate with them in this personal way. How can we make that happen?

How to break through to customer awareness

  • Show that we know our customers. Customers now know that we gather data about them, and they expect us to leverage that data to contact them in meaningful ways that are relevant to their interests and that reflect the way they interact with their phones.
  • Send messages that feel immediate. This is the most effective way to break into a consumer’s attention at a given moment. Send messages immediately after consumers take an action, or messages with genuine urgency -- they have to feel like it can’t wait.
  • Provide seamless mobile experiences. Smart Insights found that a least half of mobile consumers have ditched a brand because of a poor mobile experience. Slow load times on smartphones have led consumers to avoid a brand for up to five months.

What breaks through to your awareness as a consumer? How can we leverage our own mobile experiences into better experiences for our brand’s customers? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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