From Home Furnishing Business
Coach's Corner: The Battle to Gain Today’s Consumers Attention
BY TOM ZOLLAR
One of the biggest challenges we face as marketers is getting our target consumer’s attention. With so many media channels available and the number of advertising messages growing astronomically, the average individual is constantly bombarded with demands for their consideration, no matter if they are viewing TV or surfing the Internet. When you consider that in 2015, Microsoft Consumer Research revealed that the average person now has a lower attention span than a goldfish at roughly 8 seconds (which represents a 33% drop from the 12 seconds reported in 2000), getting consumers to focus on your message has become decidedly tougher in the last two decades or so. We also see this impacting face-to-face interactions with salespeople in the stores. Our window of opportunity to break through and connect with potential customers on the retail floor has shortened dramatically!
So why is this? Many say that today’s consumers are time strapped and with all the demands of our hectic lifestyles no longer have the time to waste parsing through multiple messages to get to the ones that matter. As a result, they habitually reject anything that does not “ring their bell” at the very beginning of an interaction. In addition, since we are dealing with a more confident shopper, who at least has an idea what they are seeking, they will be much quicker to judge whether what we have to say is of interest to them or not. Lastly, the very presence of all the messages aimed at them, probably leads consumers to not feel the need to study each one at length. An abundance of selection often leads people to move through the process quicker than if they have fewer offers to review.
All the above reasons probably have merit and indeed the combination of them and other influences have certainly created a tough hill for us to climb when it comes to breaking through the clutter and getting our message through. It is possible that many consumers actually bring the resulting confusion from the media message frenzy with them into the store, which most certainly influences how they listen to our salespeople and what they want to hear from them.
If you agree with what I have said so far, then the next step is to determine what we can do about it. Rather than blaming the consumer and running from the issue, we need to attack it head on by accepting that the problem is not with the consumer. The problem is with our message. Obviously, we feel the story we have to tell is important for the consumer to hear, however that is not as critical as knowing and delivering information the consumer wants. Somehow, we need to refocus our marketing and selling efforts on saying what consumers want to hear instead of just saying what we want to say.
As Michael Brenner, author of the bestselling book The Content Formula puts it: “The answer to all this is Content! We have to stop pushing messages and start creating messages our audiences are interested in. We need to be more interesting and we need to distribute interesting content in multiple forms across all the channels where our customers are consuming it.” His message is that today content is indeed king. We have been too busy sending messages that are not interesting to our target consumers and not what they want to hear. We need to focus more on providing interesting content that our target customers are interested in hearing.
How do we do this? I for one think that today’s consumers are most interested in getting the result they want, as easily as possible. The process of getting there is secondary to knowing what will happen in the end.
A home furnishing customer wants a home that is comfortable, livable and beautiful in their eyes. They may only need a piece or two to complete that dream or they may need a whole house makeover, but it is achieving their desired end result that drives their actions. Therefore, the quicker and more clearly, we can present the result we can deliver for them or at least a logical first step towards it, the more chance we have of getting their attention.
In our business I think the ones that are doing this the best today are the major online retailers. They have partnered with many popular websites and app providers to have a very powerful marketing presence that most consumers may not even realize is actually advertising. Talk about fake news! These are not articles as much as advertisements for online sales. I have christened them “adicles”, they are ads made to appear to be news articles on the app. They provide good information, but their intention is not merely to educate the reader, it is also to motivate them to buy from those retailers with whom the provider has partnered. The vendor basically pays a commission on whatever is sold via the link, as stated in the disclaimer below from USA Today:
— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. However, our picks and opinions are independent from USA Today’s newsroom and any business incentives.
The real point is that these “adicles” do a great job of providing a message that may lead consumers to click on them because it foretells the result they may be seeking or at least provides a possible first step towards the desired result. As I said earlier, it certainly does help that most consumers probably don’t see these links as advertisements, which may make them more likely to click. But that only tells us that perhaps we need to try to deliver our messages in formats that are not perceived as being advertisements.
Here are the titles of four recent “adicles” on my favorite news app, USA Today:
“The 20 best places to buy furniture online” — What better way to start your shopping than knowing the best places to visit according to an “expert”? Here is their opening message: “Shopping online for furniture can be tricky. Not only do you need to measure your own space, but you need to check ratings and reviews to see if it holds up to the photo. It is appealing, though—you just have to be smart about it and these are the best places to shop.”
“15 gorgeous pieces you can get from Home Depot’s huge furniture sale” — Many people don’t even know that Home Depot carries real furniture, so this is a big draw for them. Each product featured has a short blurb that describes what benefits it provides and forecasts the owner’s satisfaction: “A good ottoman provides seating, extra surface space for snack trays, and (of course) a place to put your feet up. This one has a near-perfect 5-star rating and it’s half off right now!”
“Casper is having a huge Columbus Day sale on their bestselling mattresses” — Certainly sounds like an ad and it is one, but its opening message really sets the stage for a happy result: “When the weather is crisp and the clouds are overcast, it’s the perfect time to huddle under the covers in bed, or as I like to call it, my hedonistic sloth nest. All you need is a candle burning on your nightstand, Netflix on in the background, oh, and of course a comfy duvet and plush mattress to help make it all the more cozy. If your current mattress leaves a lot to be desired, we have some good news for you. In honor of Columbus Day, Casper is offering shoppers a discount on their cult-favorite mattresses.”
“The 16 best deals at Wayfair’s huge weekend sale” — This big player has great brand awareness and seeing what experts call the best deals from them definitely has some traction with potential customers: “October may be the time to decorate your home with gourds and Halloween decor, but it’s also a great time to freshen up your home with new furniture and decorations—especially when there’s a good sale going on. Right now, Wayfair is having their October Clearance Sale, which offers up to 70% off popular rugs, mattresses, lighting, and so much more.”
It has been said that Millennials and other younger consumers will buy things because they feel smart about how they bought them. They shop online because they can get information they want and find products they need easily. The above examples present ways some very successful retailers are getting their message across to these consumers. How can we be more like them and deliver content that today’s consumers are actually interested in receiving? Remember to give them information you know they want and need, not just what you want them to hear.
I recommend you start with a review of your social media effort and web page to make sure you are providing messages there that they want to see, instead of just what you have on sale. Perhaps you can create your own “adicles” to put out on the web? You certainly have experts on staff who are willing to make recommendations you could share with potential customers looking for advice, just like the big guys do. Lastly, it also may be a good learning opportunity for you and your people to take advantage of these links to learn what some pretty savvy retailers think people want to buy. You might see something you missed on your last market visit.