Tech Line

Three Ways to Fight Digital Fatigue in the Attention Economy

It’s no secret that many aspects of our lives, especially our work lives, look drastically different than they did two years ago. According to a recent Gartner report, more than half (51 percent) of all knowledge workers around the world are working remotely. However, as hybrid and remote work become pervasive, the lines between our personal and professional lives have blurred. Monday through Friday—and oftentimes on the weekends—our work inboxes and various chat applications continually demand much of our digital mindshare. Simultaneously, email our personal emails, text messages, and social media channels are vying for our attention.

For many, the lack of separation between work life and home life has contributed to a phenomenon known as “digital fatigue,” which can be defined as “the state of mental exhaustion brought on by the excessive and concurrent use of multiple digital tools, such as apps and screens.” As a result, it’s become increasingly challenging for brands to stand out from the competition and earn their audiences’ attention.  

So, in a world that has undergone a tremendous—but necessary—digital revolution over the past two years, how can businesses counter digital fatigue and continue to drive value through audience engagement?

Defining digital fatigue

A recent survey conducted by PFL revealed that fully remote workers and hybrid workers receive almost 65 promotional work emails per week—and more than half of the respondents reported fatigue due to the high volume of digital promotions they received at work. With a highly distributed workforce, there are three primary ways digital fatigue impacts our lives, both personally and professionally.

First, there is an onslaught of digital notifications and messages we receive daily, which are time-consuming to view and respond to and dominate a significant amount of our attention. The concept of “inbox zero,” in which individuals continually clear out all email messages and notifications, is now nearly impossible. As soon as one inbox is cleared, the notifications for another channel have gone haywire. Then, while tending to those messages, the original inbox is now flooded with emails again. And the beat goes on.

In addition to notification overload, the number of channels we use to communicate has expanded significantly. Whether through email, instant message, text message, Slack, Zoom, social media, or online delivery services, the vast array of communication channels we use greatly intensifies digital fatigue. With so many interactions that have subsequently gone digital as a result of the pandemic—from work to grocery shopping and everything in between—there is little energy left to absorb the sheer number of digital messages and amount of content we encounter every day, even if these messages are highly tailored and personalized. It is simply too much.

On top of being bombarded with messages and notifications across a growing swath of channels, many people are feeling the impact of digital fatigue simply from sitting in front of a screen for eight to 10 hours a day for work—with no breaks for what used to be face-to-face interactions. There’s also digital fatigue from the high volume of virtual events that have replaced in-person, human interactions with yet another bland, virtual meeting. With digital communication and interactions at an all-time high, there is a seeping monotony weighing heavy on the workforce.  

Three steps to re-energize your audience

In our current, predominantly digital environment, a sales representative or digital marketer could pour their heart and soul into a personalized email and still be easily overlooked by a prospect. So, what’s the solution? Here are three useful strategies to liven up your brand experiences and breakthrough audience fatigue:  

  1. Get back to the basics.

Sales and marketing professionals don’t have to go to extreme lengths to earn the attention of their audiences. The key is knowing your customer’s preferences and behaviors, which helps determine how and when to target them. Customer behavioral data is essential to building successful marketing campaigns and pitching sales leads. This data can be used to create engaging content perfectly suited to the consumer or prospect.

A great way to ensure consistent engagement is by establishing a basic playbook based on what works and adjusting it accordingly to meet certain project-based objectives. From this playbook, you can personalize engagement strategies based on the prospect’s intent signals.  

  1. Don’t be afraid to experiment and think outside of the box.

It’s smart to leverage data to target your audience and use a playbook as a foundation, but when it comes to personalization, don’t shy away from adventurous tactics, such as interactive visuals or incorporating comic relief into a pitch deck. Although tight budgets might limit creative experiments, it’s important to differentiate your brand to stand out and remain competitive. The content and ways in which you engage your audience should be creative and original.  

  1. Provide your audience with hybrid experiences.

Bridging the physical and digital worlds is another great way to engage your audience and maintain their attention. This can be done by sending something tangible to a prospect that they can physically interact with during a virtual event, webinar, or sales call. Physical touchpoints not only create excitement and increase engagement, but they can also leave a lasting impression. These memorable, hybrid experiences can help build brand affinity and keep your brand top-of-mind in the future.  

While ensuring consistent communication with customers and prospects is critical to customer experience, it’s important to be mindful of your audience’s time and energy. Since digital fatigue is at an all-time high, it’s more important than ever to incorporate interactive, physical touchpoints to break up their screen time. Through hybrid experiences and data-driven, personalized content, brands can drive higher conversion rates and generate greater value for their business.