Time Is The New Currency

Time is the new currency. Time is precious. As demands on our time increase, the one thing we cannot do is to make more time. There is a finite amount and there just doesn’t seem to be enough to meet all of our daily demands.

We are all in the same boat. We suffer from increasing demands for our time, both at work and also in our personal lives. In our business lives, we spend more time at work. In the UK the number of hours spent at work has increased to an average of 48 hours a week. In addition the time we do spend at work is busier; meetings after meetings and email inboxes that we never seem to be able to get on top of. There is a constant struggle to balance work demands with the time available, leading to more stressful and longer working hours.

If this was not enough, in our personal lives, there are also growing demands placed on our time. Just commuting to work is taking longer as journey times increase. Then with the little time we do have at home we spend it juggling family needs; getting children to school, caring for aging parents, managing a home delivery and often in situations where both parents are working.

This is the environment in which brands are engaging customers. It is a time sensitive environment with lots of demands placed on the individual for their attention. But while every brand competes for this attention, the sheer volume of marketing communications has risen dramatically. In David Shenk’s book “Data Smog” he states; “In 1971 the average American was targeted by at least 560 daily advertising messages. Twenty years later, that number has risen sixfold, to 3,000 messages per day.”

3,000 marketing messages a day. Just think about that. Taking into account eight hours sleep, this means that we are being exposed to three brand communications every minute of every day. No wonder the average attention span of a human has dropped over a fifteen year period from 12 seconds to approx. 8 seconds. This means the attention span of a human is now one-second less than that of a goldfish.

Our natural response, in the first instance, is to try to reduce the number of messages we receive. We do this by unsubscribing or opting-out of any future communication. Invariably though this hardly seems to make a difference. So our behavior changes, and we start to deploy mental opt-out where we simply do not register the messages that are being presented.

A great example of this is what is termed banner blindness. In looking at comScore’s 2012 report, approx. 5.3 trillion display ads were served to U.S users, but around 30% of these were never seen. And the reason why? Well, it is estimated that an average Internet user is exposed to 1,707 banner ads every month. And the average click-through rate was just over 0.1%. Mental opt-out is growing and it is a function of the ever-increasing demands on our time and the lack of value that is being offered.

The reality is that customers just cannot afford their time to be wasted. Time is precious and brands need to not only respect this but also to build their strategies around time optimization. Brands need to remove anything that requires the time of the customer but gives nothing back in return. In effect, every request for a customer’s time must deliver value and this applies to every stage of the customer lifecycle. Jay Baer sums up this philosophy very well in his book “Youtility”.

Brands need to consider the importance of time to the customer. This philosophy needs to be embedded not only in all the marketing engagements but also the offering itself, whether it is a product or service or both. And this philosophy needs to be applied at every stage from first touch, to point of advocacy. Marketing needs to consider every aspect; the messaging, how to provide answers, search principles, availability of product, convenience of purchase, registration ease, packaging (opening and disposing of), labeling, ease of adoption (user / assembly guides), training, ease of use, support, future information and data preferences etc.

A great way to think about this is to apply the discipline of lean manufacturing, which is all about reducing waste. I love the way that Eric Ries applied this philosophy to how to build a sustainable business in his book “The Lean Startup”. The same approach works here, but in this case it is about removing any of the customer’s time that is currently wasted. Understand the current customer journey, identify new hypotheses that will reduce the amount of time a customer has to invest in the relationship, test these with small experiments and roll out the ones that help the customer attain value quicker.

Here Are 5 Principles To Adoption:

Customer Experience Is Time

Product / market fit is about building customer satisfaction, but the customer experience delivered is all about building a relationship that can form the foundation of brand loyalty. Understand that the single most important aspect of customer experience and therefore loyalty is a respect of customer time. Just think about how waiting, long queues, inefficient search criteria, poor labeling, difficult to open packaging, etc. all waste time and denigrate customer experience and overall brand perception.

Understand The Customer Journey

Map out the customer journey but don’t just focus on communication. You also need to evaluate the direct customer interaction with the product or service at every single point e.g. packaging, start guides etc. In fact, every interaction with your brand needs to be considered.

Develop New Hypothesis Based On The AS IS

Start with an understanding of the current state (the AS IS). For this you need to have in place clearly defined metrics that are able to convey current performance. Develop a new hypothesis; if I do this, the following should happen. Establish a future state (a TO BE) that can be measured by your current metrics or if none exist you must establish a new set of metrics.

Test The TO BE

Run a short-term experiment. Keep it to 6-8 weeks if possible and assess the outcome. Also contact some customers directly to verify findings and ensure you have a validated version of the truth.

Close The Knowledge Gap

By running discrete tests like this, where you are able to verify and quantify the results, you will learn more about your brand, your products, the experience delivered and most importantly what is important to your customers. By continuing with these experiments you will be able to close the knowledge gap between your company and the customer, and in so doing you will reduce the time wasted on both sides of the relationship.

The reality is that the small things count and over time they could make the difference to retaining a customer or even benefiting from a new customer advocate. Reduce the amount of time that the customer has to expend to accrue the value of your offering and you are more likely to build a successful business. Conversely, if you continue to expect your customers to give up their precious time for your brand, when there is little or no value in return, then mental opt-out and brand rejection will surely follow.