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Getting the Customer's Attention

Online consumers can be as stubborn and immovable as donkeys, but these strategies can help you get the customer's attention, which is the first step to getting the sale.
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One day, a farmer was having a problem with his donkey. The donkey was supposed to be pulling the farmer's fruit and vegetable cart, but the animal refused to move. He just stubbornly sat there, refusing to get up. A passerby saw the farmer's predicament and offered to help, saying, "I can get your donkey to move." When the farmer expressed his thanks, the good Samaritan picked up a big stick lying in the road and smacked the donkey across the head! Horrified, the farmer demanded, "Why did you hit my donkey?! You said you were going to make him get up and move!" The passerby replied, "I am, but I have to get his attention first."

I don't recommend that e-businesses use the strategy of this "good Samaritan" (though sometimes I think email spam comes close). But with all the buzzing confusion of millions of web sites and email marketing campaigns today, it's no wonder that e-businesses are having a difficult time getting and keeping a shopper's attention. Consumer attention is a scarce commodity because there is only so much of it to give. Today's consumers divide their limited attention between work, home, family, friends, TV, books, music, newspapers (remember newspapers?), email, and the Internet.

As the Internet permeates more and more of consumers' lives, it becomes more difficult to get their attention. Not only are web sites proliferating at an incredible rate, but new forms of e-commerce are emerging that demand more consumer attention. With the approaching opportunity of buying anytime and anywhere, the challenge to today's e-business is how to capture and keep a consumers' attention—consumers who define freedom as not paying attention when they don't want to.

Says Michael Goldhaber, the person who coined the expression "Attention Economy," "Money flows to attention." Big companies don't automatically get attention on the web just because they have a lot of money. You can hire a lot of engineers, copywriters, and graphic artists to create a web site. You can spend truckloads promoting your site. But without an engaging offer, it won't win a consumer's attention.

In other words, you can't buy attention—it's earned!

Getting to Know the E-Shopper

Before you can get a consumer's attention, you have to know who your consumers are.

According to a study from Media Metrix and consulting firm McKinsey, every online consumer falls into one of six e-shopping types: simplifiers, surfers, connectors, bargain shoppers, routine followers, or sports fans. Knowing what kind of customer you want to target will help win over consumers by giving them more of what they really want.

Let's look at these categories one by one.


These shoppers are impatient but lucrative. Although they typically spend just seven hours a month online, they account for half of all Internet transactions. They like things simple and direct, and they like the convenience of Internet shopping. You can grab their attention by showing them end-to-end convenience and proving that they'll save time by buying at your e-business.


These shoppers are consummate browsers and love to window shop. They look at four times more pages than other Net users. They're drawn to new features and content. You can grab their attention by constantly updating your offerings and your site.


These shoppers are new to the Internet and are less likely to shop online. But they can be reached. They're very brand-conscious and are drawn to brick-and-mortar brands that they know. Win them over by emphasizing affiliations with strong offline brands.

These shoppers also enjoy connecting with others online. Community is big with them, so offer them a chance to chat with others like them on your site, or provide a service by which they can send free email greeting cards to their friends and family.

Bargain Shoppers

Their name says it all. These shoppers enjoy ferreting out bargains and have an unerring instinct for a good deal. Grab their attention with low prices. Be prepared to compete actively on price, offer auctions and classified ads, provide price comparisons, and get them involved in a community on your site where they can exchange shopping tips and stories with other bargain shoppers.

Routine Followers

These shoppers are information addicts who use the Net mainly for the information that it provides. They're attracted to news and financial sites. Get their attention by emphasizing news. Be first with new information and offer real-time data, and they'll return again and again to your site.

Sports Fans

These shoppers are sports and celebrity enthusiasts, who live for the next score or the next bit of gossip. They're attracted to sports and entertainment sites. Grab their attention with updated sports and celebrity information, and help them connect with other fans through chat rooms, discussion boards, and email discussion lists.

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