Attention has become the most invaluable commodity for brands since the inception of the digital world. The average attention span has seen a drastic reduction from 8 seconds to 4 seconds in the last 15 years, making it tough for brands to stay on consumers' recall. With an array of brands and service options available, consumers are easily becoming forgetful and distracted. A gateway to consumers' interest lies in their first impression, and it only takes 0.05 seconds to form an opinion on the products and services offered in the digital realm. Through this narrowed window, brands compete with each other to capture users' attention and give them a compelling experience. Such competitiveness by brands to capture the audience's attention has led to the origin of the term attention economy.
Attention economy, a term coined by Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon, an economist and psychologist, was defined as the bottleneck of human thoughts. As companies strive to attain profitability through attention, the term gains paramount importance in today’s time. Attention economy helps marketers place tailor-made ads that were tracked through our viewing history. It forms an integral part of creating digital interaction across industries, especially those in e-commerce, OTT, and social media.
The attention economy has always been a matter of greater importance for brands and marketers. The year 2024 is poised to create larger conversations around the attention economy. This is triggered by Google’s decision to phase out third-party cookies by the end of 2023 and early 2024. For years, companies and marketers have been using cookies, especially third-party cookies, to track website visitors, which helps in targeting the right audience with a customized message. These cookies serve as digital treasures for marketers about their audiences. According to Statista, 83% of marketers rely on third-party cookies for their marketing strategies. With the end of third-party cookies, it will become difficult for brands and marketers to create informed ad campaigns and to curate tailored content. A Hubspot survey reveals that 41% of marketers believe that this will be their greatest challenge in the coming years. The end of third-party cookies has not only worried marketers but has also initiated a conversation on alternate methods to foster attention economy.
The deprecation of third-party cookies necessitates a more sophisticated understanding of how consumers engage with content online. Presently, consumers are more conscious of their digital footprint and are encouraging businesses to respect their privacy. Similarly, the attention economy encourages marketers and businesses to move away from invasive practices and focus on building genuine connections. A ban on third-party cookies can be a major setback for marketers. However, it also gives them an opportunity to pivot towards prioritising user consent and engagement and invest their resources in understanding their audiences on a deeper level.
To understand what goes behind the attention of the audience on a deeper level, it is important to dive deep into their consumer behaviour and emotions. Brands can make use of this and help curate actionable insights for delivering great consumer experiences. With the deprecation of third-party cookies, brands and marketers have already started shifting towards an alternate medium: AI-based insights. Artificial intelligence, being a propelling factor in 2023, is set to impact greater changes in the attention economy. In today’s time, AI can help brands understand and capture their audience’s attention through algorithms. Through an in-context simulated environment, marketers and brands can gauge the attention of consumers. Through these insights, marketers can improve the placement of characters and elements and understand the way it solves the attention problem pertainingto the attention economy after the end of third-party cookies.
Curating user-friendly interfaces that establish positive encounters, creating interactive content across social media, and fine-tuning OTT user interfaces that navigate and align with consumer interests—artificial intelligence is here to stay for a long time, benefiting marketers. Propelling user research through AI on understanding the attention value of consumers can help in understanding pain points and foster in creating engaging personalised content. The integration will help identify deeper insights behind the users' attention that help find out the true intentions, motivations, and behaviours—a much more enhanced approach compared to third-party cookie data.
Marketers must start acknowledging this shift, as the metrics of attention will move onto a completely new spectrum in the attention economy. This will help brands understand their audience better and compete strongly to win their attention. This transition will help in humanising marketing efforts, thus marking the attention economy landscape embrace a shift towards a holistic approach for the future.