Eight Seconds to Capturing Your Consumer’s Attention Online

By Oghenetega Otevwe

From 12 seconds to 8 seconds, the average human attention span has fallen by 33% since its last record in the 2000s, according to a Microsoft study. This decline makes it harder for digital marketers and business industries to obtain and retain consumers’ attention spans online especially in an era where consumers are exposed to an overwhelming volume of ads on their smartphones or other technological devices. As you are aware, the marketing field has evolved from traditional media like posters and billboards to digital platforms, such as social media apps like Facebook and TikTok, and with the pandemic we see this change markedly shift.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that companies worldwide including businesses in Canada spent over $3 billion Canadian dollars in 2022 on social media marketing as users are growing on these social networks. These social media platforms have created an opportunity for businesses to connect with a wide variety of consumers online through advertisements. As much as these platforms create a source of revenue and customer base for various organizations and sectors, it has become extremely difficult for the marketers to attract and retain consumers’ attention and engagement online, as the marketing space has become a competitive field saturated with ads from various businesses competing/bidding to win the attention of potential customers.

I will explore three key recurring topics in the digital marketing sector that relate to this issue of waning attention spans and low audience engagement:

  • Ad fatigue
  • Ad blindness
  • Ad blockers

Ad fatigue means your audiences have become so bored or tired of seeing your ad, they stop paying attention to them while Ad blindness means users are subconsciously ignoring your ads on a website due to their frequency or positioning on their screen. These two issues negatively impact the campaign efforts put by the online marketers to capture attention and engage consumers. With ad-blockers on the other hand, they eliminate the channel for marketers to communicate with consumers. According to Backlinko, 42.7% of internet users worldwide use ad blocking tools from a study by Hootsuite that analyzed ad-blocker users in 46 countries. The reported reasons for using such tools include excessive amounts of ads (22.3%), irrelevant ads (22.3%), and intrusive ads (19.9%).  

Created by author using Hootsuite data sourced in backlinko.com

How can marketers then address these issues? How can they capture consumers’ attention while they scroll on their devices? Let’s take a look at some strategies I recommend supported by recommendations from leading digital agency Boston Digital and top business branding platform Tailor Brands.

Create High Quality Content

Consumers are more likely to engage with online ads that are visually appealing and well-designed. Such high-quality content not only captures attention but also reflects positively on your company’s brand’s reputation and credibility.

Avoid Pesky and Disturbing Content

As a marketer, avoid intrusive or annoying ads, this can be a major turn-off for consumers. It’s important to find the right balance between being attention-grabbing and respecting users’ browsing experiences.

Tell Compelling Stories

A key to grabbing consumers’ attention asides using visually appealing ads is to craft ads with a compelling narrative that resonates with your target audience. Storytelling has a powerful impact on emotional engagement and can make your ads more memorable and relatable to consumers. Use storytelling techniques in your ads to convey your brand’s values, while presenting the problems and solutions that consumers can identify with.

Build Short and Concise Creative

With barely eight seconds to grab a consumer’s attention, it’s imperative to create ads that are concise and quickly capture the viewer’s interest. With the era of exploding short-form video platforms like TikTok video reels in the marketplace, competing with organic content creators will be challenging. Hence, it is important for your ads to be filled with engaging stories that will capture the consumer and encourage them to interact with your brand’s content or life.

Personalize your Messaging

Personalization allows you to deliver more relevant and customized messages, increasing your ads’ chances of capturing and retaining consumers’ attention spans. Tailor your ads to specific audiences by leveraging your platform’s data analytics and ad targeting capabilities.

Provide Genuine Value

Instead of solely focusing on promoting your products or services, offer valuable content that aligns with your audience interests and solves their problems. By providing genuine value, you build trust and foster a positive ethos and relationship with consumers, making them more likely to pay more attention to your ads versus those of your competitors and other content.

Example of an image ad highlighting product value for potential customers.
Image Credit: Canva free images

The goal of all these strategies I suggested above is to keep your consumers engaged for longer than their standard 8 seconds. You want to retain their attention as well as prompt them to take other call-to-actions like make a purchase, fill a lead form or sign up for an event or resources. Marketers can enhance consumers’ responses to digital ads by addressing the factors that avert their attention such as ad fatigue and ad blindness through visually appealing and interactive formats, providing high-quality content, and leveraging personalization. By adapting strategies that prioritize relevance, marketers can navigate the competitive digital landscape and effectively capture and retain consumers’ attention for success.

References and Further Reading

Brian Dean, 2021. Ad Blocker Usage and Demographic Statistics in 2023. Backlinko. https://backlinko.com/ad-blockers-users#ad-blocking-stats

Caballero, I. K. (2015). The Digital World: Human attention span is shorter than a goldfish’s. LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/human-attention-span-shorter-than-goldfishs-ivette-k-caballero

Chuck Murphy, 2019. The Shrinking Attention Span & What It Means for Marketers. Boston Digital. https://www.bostondigital.com/insights/shrinking-attention-span-what-it-means-marketers

Derrick Lin, n.d. Goldfish-sized attention spans: The marketer’s new challenge. Retaildive. https://www.retaildive.com/ex/mobilecommercedaily/goldfish-sized-attention-spans-the-marketers-new-challenge

Ignite Marketing Team, 2023. Ad Fatigue: How To Recognize It & Avoid It. Ignite visibility. https://ignitevisibility.com/ad-fatigue/

Jia Wertz, 2019. The Number One Thing Marketers Need To Know To Increase Online Sales. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jiawertz/2019/08/31/the-number-one-thing-marketers-need-to-know-to-increase-online-sales/?sh=1abd332f7fed

Mimi An, n.d. Why People Block Ads: And What It Means For Marketers And Advertisers. Hubspot Research. https://www.upa.it/static/upload/why/why-people-block-ads/why-people-block-ads.pdf

Martina Bretous, 2021.The Most Annoying Types of Ads & What to Do Instead [New Data] https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/worst-ads-poll-survey

Outbrain, n.d. Banner blindness.https://www.outbrain.com/glossary/banner-blindness/ Tailor Brands, n.d. Advertising for Short Attention Spans. https://www.tailorbrands.com/blog/consumer-attention-span

Oghenetega Otevwe is a research analyst student at Humber College who has spent the past two years as a freelancer in the digital marketing field, working for various brands ranging from clothing to household items. She currently works as a digital marketing assistant at Optimal Digital Ads. During her free time, Tega finds joy in cooking, exploring new places, and volunteering.

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