Consumers these days are so overwhelmed with emails, posts, white papers, and articles that many have now erected a personal ‘attention barrier’.  

This is a mental state which protects consumers’ mental resources from all of the irrelevant messages and advertisements flashed at them online.

While useful for consumers, the attention barrier is not a good thing for brands. When people are hiding behind it, they may see brand content but will typically ignore anything commercial straight away. 

Some brands have been successful regardless. They produce vast quantities of high-quality content and establish a deep relationship with their audience over time. Brands such as Red Bull, Adobe, and ANZ have all succeeded in this way.

But what about a marketing team of more modest means? What can brands do, in 2017, to reach their customers using content?

To find out, we asked Aoife McIlraith, Global Director of Search and Marketing Services at Lionbridge, the world’s largest marketing localization firm to comment on the topic.

She offered three things brands can do to capture their customers’ attention in 2017, summarized in the video and comments below.

 

1. Use automation to personalise content

The amount of global digital information has doubled since 2014 and there are now an estimated 45bn web pages indexed by Google.

As the volume of information increases, it is only natural that consumers put up barriers to new information so that only the most relevant content will get through.

Brands can try to get around these barriers, according to Ms McIlraith, by using automation to achieve personalisation. That is, they can redo their sites and apps so that content changes dynamically to make the digital property more relevant to them.

This could be something as simple as showing different content to each targeted segment or as sophisticated as dynamically altering information based on the actual reader.  

To some extent, this is what many ecommerce sites do now. The Amazon ‘homepage’ is always personalised according to which products you have viewed previously, and there is little reason why brand sites couldn’t do the same with content.

No matter how it is done, offering a personalised experience will almost certainly put a brand’s content ahead of all the other, less personal brand messaging.

2. Adapt to new ways of searching

To navigate the overwhelming amount of information, consumers have relied on text-based search engines for many years. To remain relevant, brands have had to tag content to make it easy for searchers to find (SEO) and buy ads against relevant keywords (SEM) to get to the top of the search page.

According to Ms McIlraith, this is due to change in 2017 in two ways and the new search paradigms offer opportunities for brands.

First off, voice-based search has become available through a variety of products from Apple, Amazon, and Google which has resulted in a 7x increase in voice search queries since 2010. Both Google and Microsoft report that nearly one in four mobile searches are now voice-based.

To capitalize on this change, brands need to have a look at how their information is indexed and ensure that it is organised according to how people look for things naturally, as opposed to what they type into search engines.  

Apple, Google and Microsoft all offer guides on how people use their respective products and Amazon has a self-service API for developers to add new voice-based services (‘skills’) to its Alexa product.

Just like with SEO a decade ago, brands that adapt to the new voice search medium will have a distinct advantage over those who don’t in capturing the scarce attention of consumers.

The other way search will change is the proliferation of text-based, AI chat interfaces or ‘bots’. Bots allow brands to develop a customer service interface with its own brand-based personality so that potential customers can have unique, personalised experience even though they are receiving their information from a computer server.

While the only major platform in the West which supports brand-based is bots Facebook Messenger presently, it is likely that other messaging apps and social media platforms will follow.  

For brands that operate in Japan or China, both LINE and WeChat have had chat interfaces available for some time, and there are numerous tools available to help you build bots for them. LINE is even offering awards for the best bots on its network.

Again, like with voice, brands who do bots well will be able to provide a superior customer experience and breach the attention barrier.

3. Use micro-influencers 

While it was mentioned recently on the Econsultancy blog that ‘influencer marketing’ is not a new phenomena, Ms McIlraith notes that brands seeking to reach consumers should take another look at influencers. 

She specifically notes that ‘micro-influencers’, or someone whose audience is measured in the thousands, could be the way to attract attention in 2017. The case for micro-influencers is based on the finding that as the numbers of followers rise, the level of engagement per follower dips dramatically after 10,000 and then again after 1m.

Influencers, micro or otherwise, allow brands to move beyond interruptive advertising and become a more natural part of what people are interested in online.

For more on the topic, subscribers should refer to the recent Econsultancy report ‘The Rise of the Influencers’, which offers definitions, trends, and best practices about influencers for brand marketers.

In short, though, for a brand looking for engagement over reach, using micro-influencers will likely result in more comments, shares, and likes – and earn more attention.

So…

Overall, 2017 will be a difficult year for brands to engage consumers. Available information is going to keep on growing this year and so competition for consumers’ attention will only become more fierce. 

Brands can, however, continue to look for new ways to reach consumers and breach the seemingly impenetrable attention barrier – and personalisation, voice search, and micro-influencers are all great starting points to do so.