Understanding the Attention Economy

The old adage “traffic is king” does not necessarily hold true for a DRTV e-commerce Web site. Focusing on the number of hits or unique page views is not what is floating the boats of today’s discriminating investors. It’s the sales and profits.

So how do you develop a successful e-commerce business model? Get your audience’s attention and then cultivate that attention by motivating them to key in an order and credit card number. It is all about understanding the new “attention economy.”

Some sites focus on content, content and more content and may actually give the user an enjoyable experience, but how can they make money? Watching the stock market over the past couple of months shows us that investors are becoming impatient with lackluster revenues and not-for-profit financial profiles of many content-rich name Web sites. Clearly, these companies are focusing the users’ attention on content and not on commerce.

Getting Attention

Your prospective customers’ attention can be gained via print, television or Internet advertising. You also can grab them through affiliate campaigns with other high-traffic Web sites or portals by exchanging links with related or complementary Web sites or by word-of-mouth from your existing customers.

Here’s the economics of generating the initial attention: People’s attention is like currency. Think about today’s busy society. Virtually everyone is over-committed, and people’s free time is their most precious commodity because they have only so much to spend. Respecting this attention means you cannot exceed the prospective customer’s attention budget.

Usually, to gain attention, you will need to switch users’ focus from something they were doing to something you want them to do, like look at your Web site. Advertising is the main method for achieving this and can be easily purchased online from one of the banner-brokers, such as DoubleClick; an e-mail list company, like YesMail.com; or a promotions Web site, such as MyPoints.com or WinDough.com.

Affiliate programs are a cost-effective method of advertising as well because happy visitors to your site are usually pretty amicable to telling others as long as you reward them in some way.

Finally, make sure to include your Web address in all your advertising because this is the best way to direct attention to your Web site.

Holding the Attention

You have implemented one or a combination of the above strategies to attract the eyeballs to your e-commerce site. You didn’t think you were out of the woods yet, did you? Now you have to whet the appetite.

Many Web sites make the mistake of diluting or draining users’ attention by distracting them with games, contests or free e-mail that may waste time and attention. If you spend 80 percent of users’ attention budget on one of these distractions instead of getting them focused on the product, the 20 percent you have left may not be enough to close the sale.

It’s important to focus on the e-commerce opportunity at hand. The paramount goal is to develop a trusting relationship with your prospective customer. Would you buy an expensive piece of jewelry or exercise equipment from a disreputable-looking street vendor? Of course not. So, how do you quickly build trust with the customers? By offering secure transactions and guaranteeing that you won’t be reselling their personal information. An attractive site design helps as well.

In building the trust, a site should promise the personal information will be kept private. If you take a look at most of the major e-commerce sites such as GiftPoint.com or SamGoody.com, you will find either the TRUSTe or BBBOnline symbol, which guarantees they will not share your information with other

companies. This can help you clear the trust hurdle.

Making It Quick and Easy to Order

Web sites such as Amazon.com make it easy for customers to make a purchase by offering one-click ordering. With just a click, all of the customer’s billing, shipping and charge information is automatically inserted into the order and, voila, the order is processed and then shipped. I can’t tell you how often e-commerce sites make it more difficult to select and order merchandise vs. using the telephone. Ordering via the Web must be easier and quicker or else the customer will be more likely to order from somewhere else.

Regrowing Attention

In the attention economy, businesses also want the opportunity to regrow attention. Let’s say you attracted shoppers to the site and they don’t buy on the first visit, or maybe they buy and you want a shot at selling another product or add-on accessory. How do you get them back?

The better you know and understand the customers, the more you can tailor the product to them and the better chance you will have of developing successful relationships. Records of past purchases and personal information they provide to you, including real-time order status and personal shopping environments are good strategies for bringing users back to your site. Offering additional financial incentives and other promotions works well, too. Finally, maintaining regular opt-in e-mail communications with your customers provides even more opportunity to make special offers and introduce new products.

E-Sales on the Rise

This can be the tune you’re whistling if you follow these rules. They can be key to your e-commerce success. Remember, just like listening to a boring speaker who puts you to sleep, the overload of useless information that can come across the computer monitor can do the same. What’s worse, it can make a user never visit that site again. Remember to use all your resources to grab attention, link up with related sites, do something to make people talk about you and tell their friends.

Then hold their attention, gain trust and make the users’ lives easier. Make ordering what they want a breeze. Not only will they look forward to their purchase, it will make them feel like a Net-whiz when telling their friends how easy it was to order. Maybe they’ll even offer to help others. Then stay current; try to come up with the newest, hottest and latest to keep them coming back for more. It can lead to a win-win situation for both you and your visitors.

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