You might remember the Microsoft report that found the average person’s attention span had dropped to just over eight seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. Or maybe you don’t. Either way, we’ve probably all seen quippy headlines comparing our average attention span to that of the humble goldfish, who comes in at a solid nine seconds.
Who’s at fault? Smartphones, YouTube, and the “Twittersphere” have all borne a predictable share of the blame, but a closer look at the report reveals that our stymied attention spans — while maybe statistically shorter than a goldfish’s — haven’t suddenly made us gape-mouthed and glassy-eyed as well. Rather, the report says, they indicate we’ve become better, quicker, and smarter about sorting the digital wheat from the chaff.
So what does this mean for digital marketers? It means that shortened attention spans can be a challenge, or they can represent an opportunity. Remember, people don’t crave content. They crave great content.
Here are eight tips for creating emails that break through the eight-second attention span. We hope you make it to the end.
1. Avoid embedding important text in images. Not only does this make your emails more accessible, it enables the most important part of the email — the message — to appear instantly before images even have a chance to load — or the subscriber has a chance to bail.
2. Spend some time on your subject line. We all know an enticing subject line can make or break your open rate. Thirty-three percent of email recipients open email based on subject line alone. Make sure you’re following subject line best practices, and don’t be afraid to get creative with emojis and special characters. After all, almost every message is more effective when it includes an image. Also, be aware of how different mobile devices or email clients truncate subject lines that are otherwise fine for desktop.
3. Get personal. Know who your audience is, and tailor your content to match. Personalized emails see a 14% increase in click-through rates and a 10% increase in conversions. If you aren’t already using subscriber data and segmentation to build dynamic emails, now is the time to get on the bandwagon. Check out this easy way to send personalized emails to get started.
4. Use scannable, mobile-first templates. Users expect to be able to quickly find information they care about and filter out what they don’t. Fifty-six percent of email today is first opened on a mobile device. Requiring subscribers to pinch and zoom to read your content could drive down click-throughs. Make it easy for them by using appealing imagery, clear heading hierarchies, easy-to-read typography, and a mobile-first, single-column format. (One advantage of using Email Studio in Salesforce Marketing Cloud is that you can create mobile-friendly email templates with simple drag-and-drop tools and view how they’ll appear in a mobile view with the click of a button.)
5. Incorporate interactive content. Animated gifs, polls, even full-fledged videos are possible inside an email these days. Interactivity invites the subscriber to take part in an action, such as toggling between images, playing a game, or answering a question, without ever having to leave the email. Using interactive elements in your next email can help your message stand out from the pack. Check out these nifty examples for ideas.
6. Have a concise, clear call to action. Congrats! You’ve broken the 8-second attention span. But your witty subject line, interactive content, and sleek, scannable format will all be for naught if users don’t know what to do when they get to the end of your email. Add a call to action that points them clearly in the right direction (for example, a “Watch the Video” button).
7. Think outside the inbox. You can build a pristine, mobile-first email with a clear CTA and a stellar click-through rate, but if it’s sending people to a dated, unresponsive website, you’re probably not going to get the results you want (and over time, subscribers will stop engaging with you). Ninety percent of high-performing marketers agree or strongly agree that email is integrated into their overall marketing strategy. Make sure you’re thinking about the subscriber experience beyond the email.
8. Be smart with your timing. There is plenty of data out there claiming to pinpoint the ideal send time, but, really, your ideal schedule is going to come down to what works for your industry and your audience. A B2B audience will be most active during work hours. Targeting young professionals? Take advantage of that vulnerable attention span, and hit “send” in mid-afternoon when they may be looking for a momentary distraction. Finally, you should test, test, test until you find what works for your unique emails.
There you have it. Eight ways to get past those crucial eight seconds. Looking for more email marketing tips on grabbing subscribers’ attention early? Check out our tips on How to Write the Most Important 50 Characters of Your Email.