The evolution of micro-moments
Consumption in general has been driven by the proliferation of mobile technology innovation and adoption, placing our life experience—therefore the customer experience—into a series of these moments, defined as “those intent-rich moments when people turn to their smartphones or other devices to act on a need: to know, go, do, or buy.”1
According to a study released in June 2016, the average user engages in 76 phone sessions per day, with heavy users averaging 132 sessions per day. Marry that with the average user’s 145 minutes spent on their phone per day, heavy users spending 225, and the result is a miniscule average session length: just under two minutes for the average user, and just over a minute and a half for heavy users.2
Smart content enhances microcontent
Over the years, this micro-moment phenomenon has reinvented the customer journey in terms of demand for relevant, useful content fast when customers turn to search engines in those micromoments. Companies are now obliged to accommodate with instant, accurate results or risk irrelevance.3
Traditional content formats are not equipped to do this, rather they create friction points that will divert a customer elsewhere out of frustration and lack of understanding. Smart content is the next generation of microcontent: its semantic richness in addition to its structure propels delivery, increasing customer satisfaction and improving customer experience.
Meeting the modern expectations of on-demand understanding leads to rewards in the form of traffic, brand mentions, and conversions: for example 69% of smartphone users surveyed said they are more likely to buy from a company whose mobile site or app helps them find the answers to their questions easily.4 Further, 60% of online users say thanks to online research, they make purchasing decisions more quickly than they did a few years ago.5 Buyers make purchases following a search often within a day, sometimes within the hour.6
Consumer Decision Principles
Consumer decision making can be mapped to principles that are important to consider for your content strategy. These principles help define the micro-moment needs of customers that smart content can fulfill in the research (and ultimately the buy) stage of the customer journey.7
- Consumers engage in both internal (memory, personal experiences) and external (outside sources such as websites) information search.
- Low-involvement products (i.e., those that involve minimal effort and do not entail a significant investment) usually involve an internal search, so it is important that companies achieve “top of mind” awareness.
- For high-involvement products (more expensive items that involve a greater amount of research), consumers are more likely to use an external search.
- Firms that make products that are selected predominantly through external search must invest in having information available to the consumer in need.
- The amount of effort a consumer puts into searching depends on a number of factors:
- Brands and their competitors in the market.
- Product characteristics, quality, and complexity.
- Situational characteristics that led to their search.
- Two interesting issues in decisions are variety seeking and impulse purchases.
Principles of usability
The magnitude of available data has exploded to such an extent that the average human’s ability to learn from it has not kept up. Customer experience, which is driven primarily self-serve content, is not just about the amount of information presented but how a customer can understand and use it. After all, there is a difference between finding an answer and understanding what it means.
Usability and utility of an interface design are paramount in keeping customers from leaving. Usability refers to how easy user interfaces are to use; utility refers to whether the interface provides the needed features.
The 5 features of usability, according to Jakob Nielsen, are:
- Learnability - Ease of accomplishing basic tasks
- Efficiency - How quickly users can perform said tasks
- Memorability - How quickly users can reengage after a period of inactivity
- Errors - Quantity, severity, and remedy of errors users ultimately make
- Satisfaction - Pleasantness of the interface
While these principles refer to interface design overall, they certainly apply to content usability as well:
“If a website is difficult to use, people leave. If the homepage fails to clearly state what a company offers and what users can do on the site, people leave. If users get lost on a website, they leave. If a website’s information is hard to read or doesn't answer users’ key questions, they leave…There’s no such thing as a user reading a website manual or otherwise spending much time trying to figure out an interface…leaving is the first line of defense when users encounter a difficulty.”
Smart content advantages
In addition to usability principles, Smart content also addresses accessibility, relevance, usefulness, and speed of delivery. Smart content facilitates this through:
- the semantic structure of microcontent
- the algorithmic restructuring of related content in help center search results
Nielsen even touches on the unlikelihood of customers taking the time to read a manual to solve their problem, reinforcing the value of microcontent in resolving difficulty through easy-to-digest small bits of information customers can access on demand.
Microcontent is more easily disseminated online than user manuals in pre-internet files or PDFs and able to achieve better rankings in search engine result pages (SERPs), due to search engines’ preference for relevant, topic-level articles.
- How Mobile Has Redefined the Consumer Decision Journey for Shoppers, Google, 2016.
- Mobile Touches: dscout’s Inaugural Study on Humans and Their Tech, dscout, Inc., June 15, 2016.
- Ronnell Smith, “How Your Brand Can Create an Enviable Customer Experience for Mobile Web Searchers,” Moz, October 5, 2016; Matt Lawson, I-Want-to-Go-Moments: from Search to Store, Think with Google, April 2015; and Laura Adams, Elizabeth Burkholder, and Katie Hamilton, Micro- Moments: Your Guide to Winning the Shift to Mobile, Google, September 2015.
- Smith, “How Your Brand Can Create an Enviable Customer Experience for Mobile Web Searchers,” 2016; and Give Consumers Relevant Information in Their I-Want-to-Know Moments, Think with Google, June 2016.
- Adams, Burkholder, and Hamilton, Micro-Moments, Google, September 2015.
- Lawson, I-Want-to-Go-Moments, Think with Google, April 2015.
- Information Search and Decision Making, USC Marshall, 2010; How Shoppers Get Inspiration: Consumer Search Trends in I-Need-Some-Ideas Moments, Think with Google, July 2016. and John F. Tanner, Jr. and Mary Anne Raymond, Principles of Marketing v. 2.0, Section 3.2, Flatworld Education, 2011.
- Jakob Nielsen, Usability 101: Introduction to Usability, Nielsen Norman Group, January 4, 2012; Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business (London: Random House Publishing Group), March 8, 2016, pp. 397–401; and Brian Dean, We Analyzed 1 Million Google Search Results. Here’s What We Learned About SEO, Backlinko, September 2, 2016; and Lee Fuller, What Is Microcontent and Why Is It Important? Flaunt Digital, May 9, 2016.