Remember when “surfing channels” referred to couch potatoes who flicked from station to station while waiting for their favorite TV shows to come on?

How quaint by current standards: Not only do today’s channel changers have a lot more options — moving between TV and social media, from search to a website or from a web page to an app, for example — they now have attention spans that last all of eight seconds.

Clearly, capturing the attention of this new breed of channel surfer calls for a fundamentally different approach to interaction.

Attention Spans Aren’t Static

Today, static channels like newsletters and brochures are extending to interactive digital touchpoints like websites, mobile apps, social media, emails and kiosks, effectively turning all businesses into multi-channel publishers.

Each of those channels is an important part of the customer experience, but with so many content channels to manage, how can today’s businesses successfully capture and retain their customers’ attention?

Focus on Humans Not Channels

The best way is to remain firmly focused on the human who’s on the other side of the screen, but that can be easier said than done. It can be tempting for today’s digital organizations to focus on channel options instead, forgetting that the goal of any digital channel strategy should be to create and keep loyal customers.

Doing that means aligning your customers’ experience on each channel with their purchase journeys — every step of the way. After all, customers have many choices about where and how to look for information and they’re fully capable of seeking out products and services with or without your help.

So it stands to reason that if your brand doesn’t have a proactive presence on the channels your customers are using, chances are your customer will find another one that does.

Mapping the Purchase Process

That’s why it becomes so vital to map all of the different channels your customers are using to the potential steps in your buying process so that your channel strategy can follow your customers. This type of channel targeting ensures that you’ll be an audience-focused marketer who presents the right buyers with the right conversion opportunities on the right channels at the right times.

That means orchestrating touchpoints that span channels based on information derived from analytics, social listening, webforms and the tracking of transactional behavior. 

The goal?  To prioritize your channels and enable enable cross-channel flow.

Silos and KPIs Are Your Enemy

Yet many organizations remain siloed in their approach to channel tactics by maintaining parallel teams to handle web, social media, outbound and public relations marketing. What’s more, KPIs tend to reinforce those siloed efforts by rewarding teams for meeting the numbers rather than meeting the customer.

That dynamic sets up the twin challenges inherent in today’s digital transformation mandate — to overcome corporate culture performance indicators that focus on internal displays of success while breaking down internal silos that prevent valid data from being shared.

Understanding how your customers interact with each channel enables to identify the best format, scope and tone needed to supply your content with maximum freshness and impact is a great beginning.

Conversion is King

But the risk of valuing channels (especially social channels) based on vanity numbers such as likes, shares or hits is that using these metrics may not actually pinpoint the content approach that yields the highest conversion.

Using a data-driven approach to identifying the channels that lead to conversion — rather than just awareness — results in highly targeted efforts that have a better opportunity to reach the customers who actually care.  

Emphasizing such data, organizations can make intelligent choices about how to prioritize the mix of channels and the system integrations necessary to support those channels.

7 Steps to Capturing Your Customers’ Attention

Creating the kind of unified view of customers across channels that can be managed using a multi-channel content platform, in turn, requires the integration of multiple solutions including CRM systems, analytics, web content management, translation management and other digital marketing platforms.

However, the real driver is an internal culture that prioritizes a customer-focused channel strategy. To ensure that your company promotes a customer and channel-friendly approach, be sure to:

  1. Take the focus off the channel and place it on your customer.
  2. Be aware of internal silos that prevent a consistent brand experience across channels.
  3. Create channel value by aligning channel experience with fulfilling customer needs.
  4. Create a consistent brand message and experience across all channels.
  5. Create a single journey across channels such as website, mobile site, social, apps and email.
  6. Measure data that shows conversion impact rather than vanity numbers.
  7. Integrate customer intelligence into your web content management and digital platforms so it can be used to continually improve and reassess.

Bottom line:  Customer journeys should make up a single experience that ultimately converts, regardless of channel. To do that, remember that customer focus is everything — especially when you’re up against an eight-second attention span.

Title image by Sean Brown