I recently read an article that discussed “sidewalk rage”. It seems society’s increasing need for speed is spreading beyond the streets into more aspects of our lives. Now, we humans are increasingly discontent when we’re stuck behind poky pedestrians and apt to express ourselves with glares, grunts, and aggressive maneuvering. And while you and I may be civil enough to contain our frustrations on the sidewalks and streets, I’ll go out on a limb to venture we’re less restrained in our responses to the internet running slow, our smartphones losing signal, or software crashing while we’re in the middle of getting stuff done.  

Thanks to technology, modern life runs at an overall frenetic pace. Studies suggest we’ve become so accustomed to and expectant of technology’s immediacy that we are exhibiting measurably decreasing levels of patience offline, as well as on. To illustrate this reality, look at our acceptance of website page load times. In 2006, we all ‘tolerated’ the average four seconds it took for pages to load. In 2009, we ‘endured’ 2 seconds. Today, we expect pages to load in a quarter of a second and will likely click away if the wait extends to a second or more. 

Beyond the need for speed, technology—as our source for constant, pervasive media and information input—is also impacting attention spans. Often, the assumption is that people’s attention spans are getting dramatically shorter. However, it’s more accurate to interpret what’s happening as more rapid filtering; we’re accelerating the rate at which we decide whether something deserves our attention or not. Once we decide something’s worthy, we can still zone in and stick with it for a long while (hence our ability to binge on Netflix for hours at a time). For members of Generation Z (your future customers nipping at the heels of Millennials), the discernment filter is at about eight seconds, down from the 12-second filter reported not so long ago. Regardless of what generation people are in, everyone’s attention filters are evolving to work more quickly. 

Of course, people’s appetite for speed and accelerating attention filters are resulting in real ramifications for business people aiming to connect with employees, colleagues, and all-important customers. These are here-and-now issues, not stuff of the future. Dive into these very quick tips I’m sharing to help you navigate the challenges (and I certainly hope they make it through your attention filter!).

Prioritize Website Page Load Times

Wacky as it may seem that people expect pages to pop up in a quarter second, it’s an actual standard that really matters for your business. You must analyze how quickly your website pages load on mobile devices, as well as on laptops and stationary computers, and address any speed issues. Google will demote your website within search results if it detects slow page loads. That could put you at a disadvantage if competitors’ sites are running faster. Plus, customers really will click away to the next option rather than wait.

Think Mobile-First for All Your Communications

The shift to mobile-first has already occurred. It’s a very safe bet your customers not only starting their searches for products and retail locations on their smartphones, but they are probably concluding their searches on their phones, as well. To perform best in a mobile-first marketplace, be certain your website is beautifully formatted for smartphone web browsers, design your email marketing to look great when viewed by phone, and represent your brand on all social platforms—most of which are accessed only by mobile device. Likewise, be aware that mobile apps such as Yelp are growing as source referrals for customers. It’s important that your business be anywhere people might search via mobile device for what you sell and the services you offer. Think ease and speed in every detail of the content you offer. For example, make sure your phone number is click-to-call on your website, and go with a business Instagram account so your contact information is clickable from that app, as well. 

Simplify to Stand Out

Simplification is a great strategy to help improve your odds of making it through ever-shortening attention filters. On all social platforms, use the same profile image for quicker brand recognition. On your social posts, go with clean, attractive images with a lighter, brighter aesthetic; these types of images statistically perform better these days—perhaps because they are easier to view amidst people’s rapid scrolling. Trim excess from your website so that enticing images dominate and calls to action are front and center. Keep your email marketing succinct with single messages and just one click-through whenever possible. 

Increase Your Communication “App-titude’

Incorporate messaging apps into your communications with employees, as well as customers. To keep your team in the loop via mobile device or desktop, try out chat and collaboration apps like Slack or Google Hangouts Chat. These kinds of apps can connect people wherever they are, at any time, and are as simple and familiar as texting and attaching files in email. For keeping in touch with customers, make your customer service team available through Messenger on Facebook and live chat on your website, use direct messaging on Instagram, and provide SMS opt-ins for folks who like to get promos and updates via text message. 

Automate to Innovate

Take a deeper dive into the use of customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to ensure you are promptly nurturing your leads with the most personalization and customization possible. Whether you go with a service as robust as Salesforce or maximize the offerings of email services like Constant Contact or MailChimp, you can set up auto-send messaging that appeals to the sooner-never-later standards of today’s customers. With the right automation, your business can theoretically be multiple places at once, meaningfully connecting with people no matter where they are in their decision-making process.

Tap Into the Power of Voice Search

Make Siri and Alexa part of your sales team, as more and more people are speaking rather than typing their search queries. Having a website optimized for mobile devices is great start to ensuring your biz will be represented in voice search results. Prioritize voice SEO by including content on your site that aligns with the phrases speak when searching, including local search terms. Encourage happy customers to post positive reviews on all the sites that have places for them (Google, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc.), as many people speak phrases like “best” and “best reviews” alongside the name of the product category or business type they need to find. 

No matter how busy society gets or how dramatically technology changes, I believe the spirit of ‘slow and steady’ still wins the race. With your eye on the prize of answering your customers’ and employees’ priorities, you’re always heading in the right direction. And there’s always room for good business like that on the proverbial sidewalk.