Nearly half a century ago, Motorola released the first handheld mobile phone. It was a bulky predecessor to today’s sleek 4-ounce touchscreens.
A game of pong on such a device was inconceivable, let alone access to the world wide web (which didn’t even exist at that time). It wasn’t until 27 years later that the first mobile ad, an SMS text, would introduce a world where people’s lives were divided into a series of micro-moments as brands set forth their influence in the mobile world.
Fast-forward to 2017. Boundaries between the physical and digital realms have blurred to the point that, for many of us, there is little if any distinction between the two at all.
The undeniable ubiquity of mobile devices — with Ericsson estimating there will be at least 6.8 billion smartphone users, or the majority of the world population, by 2022 — has created a perpetually connected society for which there is little need to differentiate between life online and offline.
But mobile is old news. Artificial intelligence is greeting your customer with curiously accurate intel; voice search is connecting their needs with very local solutions. Extremely fast shipping (like Amazon’s same-day service), hyperlocal SERP indexing, and no shortage of multi-channel loyalty marketing apparatuses mean that whether customers are clicking their way through a digital storefront or redeeming rewards in-store, their lives as consumers are taking place simultaneously on earth and in the cloud.
The fact is, consumers transcended mobile long ago.
Turbulent waters: The fragmented customer experience
The great mobile search disruption of the 2010s changed the game and introduced new levels of digital attention fragmentation. But by now, that’s old news — particularly because new technology is fragmenting consumer attention even further.
Voice search and artificial intelligence have arrived in force — and are believed by over a third of marketers to be the “next big thing”; they’re further rendering traditional display ads largely useless. And, given their fast growth (20 percent of mobile searches are conducted using voice search powered by AI), they’re putting marketers in the precarious position of being well behind the times.
Marketers are competing for attention across a broad spectrum of channels; experiences are fragmented across those channels. And customers, rather than sticking to one venue to consume the content, goods and services they crave, are rapidly hopping from one channel to the next, all while using ad blockers or simply ignoring ineffective display ads.
With mobile growing and disruptive technologies piling atop it to fragment customer attention more than ever, one would hope that marketers would be working proactively to deal with the changes coming their way. Unfortunately, this is not so, with as many as 57 percent of marketers claiming that they have “no plans” to implement any element of artificial intelligence — which includes marketing for voice search appearances — this year.
All of this adds up to a serious problem in putting together the connective tissue necessary to ensure marketing success. If marketers aren’t putting their product in front of customers where they’re spending the most time — namely in mobile searches powered by voice, locality and artificial intelligence — then consumers are missing as much as half of all content marketing materials, while marketers have little in the way of a solution to change that.
Unseen content, then, is a car wheel spinning in the mud — a utility with no traction — and marketers aren’t sure of how to push themselves out of that rut.
If the ever-expanding martech space and increases in chief marketing officer spend are any indication, it would appear that some in the marketing community think that more software, listening tools and other technology will help marketers solve their consumer engagement problem. But if that were the case, wouldn’t our marketing problems be solved?
Marketing in the age of fragmentation
The solution to this attention scarcity is quite simple — marketers need to focus on their audience, even over the technology.
We marketers need to think of ourselves, to some degree, as agile providers.
Rather than shouting solutions from the rafters and hoping that our audience hears us — and we’ve already established that over half of people aren’t — we need to be thinking ahead about what our customers want, when they’ll want it, and where they’ll look to get it.
Searching for answers: The secrets your customers share
It’s no coincidence that the word “search” keeps coming up in this article — as a matter of fact, search is absolutely critical to both understanding and reaching your audience in the age of data saturation, digital immersion and attention scarcity.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.
About The Author