Shopping in the micro-moments

goldfish, attention span, memoryWhat does our rapidly diminishing attention span means for retailers?

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The average attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish. That sad fact is courtesy of research from Microsoft, as reported earlier this year in Time Magazine. People generally can now concentrate for a whopping eight seconds, about one second less than our fishy friends (and 50 per cent less than where humans were in 2000).

The reduction in our ability to focus is due in no small part to our obsession with mobile devices. Diversion from the task at hand is now just a tap away. Consequently, our lives have been shattered into shards of time, filled with digital distractions.

And so the world has adapted. Marketers and content providers alike have recognised our need to be entertained, educated and even to exercise within bite-sized chunks of our day, rather than elongated stretches. As evidence:

  •   The New York Times NYT Now app has a “mini-crossword” section, with just 10 clues, that can be solved in about 90 seconds. (Who has the time to sit down over a major brainteaser with a pen and paper?)
  •   Duolingo is an app that provides language lessons in modules that can take three minutes or less.
  •   The Scientific 7-minute Workout is another app that compresses a workout into what would have once been barely time for a warm-up.

Retail in particular has been dramatically affected by the mobile revolution. We used to talk about the “moments of truth” for a brand decision. Now these have splintered into what Google calls “micro-moments” – “mobile sessions that average a mere one minute and 10 seconds long, dozens and dozens of times a day”.

With the rise of micro-moments, the days of going shopping are gone forever. Nowadays we are always shopping. While waiting for a train, we check out email offers and download coupons. Walking down the street, we navigate our way to a store and check reviews along the way. In a tedious meeting, instead of daydreaming, we jump on a site and buy a new pair of shoes. I’d love to know the amount of retail revenue that is now generated in office hours around conference tables.

Down time has become go-time. These pause-points are often in between activities, and are tiny little gold mines just waiting for an enterprising merchant with a pick. So how do you get your lode?

To make the most of micro-moments, Google says (and I agree) that you need to “be there”, whenever and wherever the shopper wants to deal with you. As Woody Allen famously said, “80 per cent of success is showing up”. And so it is with retailing in 2015 and beyond.

Of course, when you “show up”, you also need a web presence (or app) that is built and scaled for mobile (surprising how many sites still are not), loads quickly and presents relevant information.

Do it well and micro-moments can make a major difference to your business results. And by the way, if you have struggled to the end of this article without jumping on your mobile, give yourself a pat on the back.

Jon Bird is Managing Director – Global of Labstore, Y&R’s worldwide retail and shopper marketing network. Email:

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