Attention – From Brick and Mortar to Web

Years back , when I studied engineering in Varanasi (India) , I used to many times go and sit in Saree shop of my friend. Customer used to walk in and look at various items on display. My friend, who owned the shop, used to very carefully observe which items the customer would pay attention to and how much time they would spend and their reactions. He would let customers look at things for a short period of time before he would greet them. This time gave him important attention data. This attention data and his judgment of how much customer is willing to spend and can spend were most important inputs to his dealing with and his sales to the customer. My friend was paying attention to the attention of customer.

Attention economy is gaining attention because attention is a scarce resource and with web it can be measured and stored and possibly valued. Scarce here means limited. Limited by the time a person has. With more and more choices and multitasking, people seem to pay less attention to any particular thing. But as choices competing for time have increased, people have become better at filtering and narrowing down those choices. Productivity has improved quite a lot making people accomplish more in less time. If we factor in productivity gains and better filtering, people probably pay same attention to what interests them and what is meaningful to them.

First and foremost, to gain attention, the choice has to be relevant and if it is a blog, newspaper, TV channel , no matter what , it has to remain consistently relevant. The user will choose only that which brings some form of benefit to the user, something which user values.

Attention data on web currently lacks many important attributes which attention in brick and mortal world has.

Attention data on web lacks the information about peoples feeling and reactions. It only is based on how much time people spent on something and the input people provide themselves. Hence it is not as accurate as the information gleaned from direct observation.

Also attention data on web needs to be kept current as peoples interests change. So targeting on old data does not help.

Attention data on web also lack the objectivity about person’s actual situation and interest. I may spend most of the time browsing about a Ferrari but my budget and family situation probably demand a family minivan. Buying history can possibly provide clues about that. This is the information which a shopkeeper is better able to judge about his physical customers.

Bringing attention data to level of usefulness on web as it has been in brick and mortar economy will take some time but it is another good useful concept to borrow from brick and mortar world. Attention data provides important information for a marketer and salesperson to better target the customers.

One Response to “Attention – From Brick and Mortar to Web”

  1. Your post touches on a point raised by Doc Searls that I ran across today. “Attention” is no different from that old term from the last bubble, “eyeballs.” What really has value is “intention” at that is what search engines have been so good at capturing. The next great opportunity is deriving “intention” from browsing behavior.

    http://www.linuxjournal.com/node/1000035

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