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The Attention Economy vs. the Affection Economy

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Businesses are battling hard to get our attention these days. In a consumer world reshaped by mobile devices and ubiquitous internet, attention is everything. Reliable customer loyalty seems to be a thing of the past and businesses know that the key to winning wallet-share is capturing mind-share. And what drives mind-share these days are all those clicks, likes, plays and re-tweets that make up our digital existence.

This is the so-called ‘Attention Economy’. A world where businesses must engage their customers, or die.

The clear winners in this world are behemoth social media platforms like Facebook and TenCent/WeChat (with 2 Billion and 900 million active users, respectively). Social sites like these grab a daily average of 2 hours of attention from their users. Do the maths: that’s an astonishing 660 thousand years of human attention captured by those two sites alone – every single day.

Phone makers like Samsung and Apple are also winners in the attention game. The usage stats are sobering. On average, we click, tap or swipe our smartphones over 2,600 times each day. For heavy users, it’s over 5,000 times. Amongst all that, it’s quite amazing that we even find the time to eat, sleep or drink a cup of tea.

Systems of Engagement

No doubt, if your business wants to sell to customers in this attention-centric world, an integrated System of Engagement (one that combines capabilities for marketing, CRM, promotions, product data, stock control, order orchestration and customer service) is a critical piece of kit. And this is where a software suite like SAP Hybris can be the answer to your prayers. Uniquely in the enterprise software market, it has all the bases covered, end-to-end.

But it takes more than just software to solve your problems, just as it will take more than just attention to eventually win in the attention economy.

Once your business has implemented the software tools and human capabilities needed to become a player in the attention economy, it’s not enough just to shout loudly about it. It’s not enough to do clickbait better than your rivals, to out-bid them on Google, or to undercut them on price with a superior algorithm. It’s not even enough to offer killer availability, delivery times and convenience.

Because at the end of the day, there will always be someone out there willing to price that little bit lower, advertise that little bit louder, or shave margins that little bit more ruthlessly. In a race to the bottom, the likes of Amazon or Ali Baba are always going to win in the long run (not to mention Google and Facebook getting fat on all the AdWord spend generated along the way.)

Your customers are not stupid. At least they’re no more stupid than you or I. And they’re no more likely than you or I to commit their time and money to hollow, joyless consumer experiences. No, the winners of the future will be those companies who not only capture the attention of their customers but who can also go beyond that to create a genuine bond of affection with them. In amongst the incessant noise and clamour for our attention, it will be those experiences that bring us joy and satisfaction that linger in the mind.

Systems of Affection

To get to this point, you will need to stop thinking inside the technology box, and look to the heart and soul of your business or organization. Your system of engagement should not just be a motor of operational efficiency, it should be used to animate and express your business USP, your reason for being, the essential ‘why’ behind your customer experience. Tech is only ever a means to an end, it’s not an end in itself.

In fact, the inevitable period of disruption caused by the digital retooling of your business is the perfect moment to ask the probing questions that uncover your corporate raison d’etre for the digital age. Questions like: What are we for? How do we add value to the wider world? What will create affection in our customers – make them feel good about themselves, and feel good about shopping with us? And what business model might sustain us (and our proposition) in the long run?

These are not easy questions to ask and they’re even harder questions to answer. But unless you wish to see your beloved company being disrupted into oblivion over the coming years, they are questions that cannot be avoided.

And once those questions are answered, a winning business will apply focus, diligence and (most importantly) heart to configuring their system of engagement to deliver a customer experience that perfectly expresses their core values and delights their customers, time after time. This is the real key to digital transformation.

So – ditch the clickbait. Attention is just vanity. Affection is the reality.

Joseph Ballard
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November 13, 2017
Joseph Ballard

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