I don’t have time to write this blog. You don’t have time read it. In today’s always-on society time has become our most precious resource. There has never been more content or information readily available for people to consume than today. We have evolved from an era where information was difficult to discover to a post-scarcity era where we have an abundance of content at our fingertips.
Unfortunately, we are now so busy working, parenting, learning, playing, and living that we only seem to have time to absorb just a fraction of what is available to us. While content may be abundant, time is not. This lack of time presents a real challenge for brands who are struggling against fierce and growing competition to fight for consumers’ dwindling attention rates.
The time poverty epidemic
Princeton psychologist Eldar Shafir and Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan explored the concept of scarcity for the book they co-authored: “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much”. They discovered that deprivation often wreaks havoc on cognition and decision-making. While, their work focused primarily on financial scarcity, they found that time scarcity can present similar negative outcomes. “There are three types of poverty,” Mullainathan says. “There’s money poverty, there’s time poverty, and there’s bandwidth poverty.” In all these cases, they found the research subjects were so focused on their current situations that they couldn’t adequately prepare for what was coming next. This maniacal focus on their current state caused them to make decisions that negatively impacted their future state.
For brands looking to engage with today’s harried consumers who are increasingly burdened with the demands of work and life understanding this scarcity of time is the single biggest hurdle to creating digital experiences that delight their users. Research shows that over the past 30 years, the amount of time that consumers spend per day on shopping remained constant. But the number of product choices presented to those consumers increased by more than 1000%. How does a brand compete for attention of consumers who are swimming in a sea of content and options?
The “I need it now” consumer
In the new post scarcity era, where content is ubiquitous and time rules the empire, speed becomes the new priority. Companies must take into account how consumption patterns are changing and focus on creating experiences that drive discovery and reduce friction to grab consumers’ attention along their journey. In a world where people binge watch entire seasons of their favorite shows in one sitting and a 2-second delay in load time during a transaction results in abandonment rates of up to 87%, innovative experiences are a mandatory requirement for survival. It is no longer about just delivering content across multiple screens, it is about delivering content across multiple screens that engages the user…fast.
Consumers, particularly American consumers, want it now. A recent Harris poll found that “22% of Americans say they would be willing to pay more for either overnight or same day delivery, with 15% specifically saying they’d pony up for overnight service and 14% for same-day.” Journalists at Re/Code explored this topic further in their recent “instant gratification” article series which looked at the growing number of companies and services, like Uber and Amazon Prime Now, which are launching on the promise of instant results.
This trend holds true for digital as well. The limited number of avenues available for digital distribution of content today is forcing brands to get creative about the product experiences they need to deliver. Today, the battle for customers’ attention is fought in the uniqueness of the discovery experience and the speed at which your product gets the user to the content they want. Loyalty is won by balancing conventions and expectations with a distinct approach that makes a company’s content resonate when seconds count.
Brands cannot stand out and meet the “I need it now” desires of their target audiences if they limit themselves to the same digital experiences or templatized user experiences as their competitors. Companies can no longer compete on the size of their content catalogs alone. In the post scarcity era of content, only forward-thinking experiences that push the envelope and tailor to the consumers’ demands will be rewarded with precious moments that matter so much.
Image courtesy of Dmitri Popov for Unsplash.