Getting user attention is becoming tougher. Much, much tougher.
The data backs this up. Let’s consider a few statistics:
- 86% of users suffer from “banner blindness,” meaning that they’re not paying attention to ads at all.
- Tons of users (around 47%) are using ad blockers.
- A whopping 96% of users don’t trust ads.
- Around 20% of Facebook Ad clicks could be fake (coming from click-farms).
- The average person has an 8-second attention span (and they’re only spending 1.7 seconds on content), which is significantly lower than the length of most creative ads.
Clearly, the situation is looking fairly grim for getting user attention, and especially for the paid ads space. When users don’t have the attention span for your ad (not that they trust it anyway), don’t notice it in the first place or are using ad-blockers, such that a lot of your clicks are from bots and click-farms, what’s the point?
Sure, paid ads have a shiny allure: Put in money, and out come clicks. However, conversion rates for paid ads are becoming worse and worse. Now is the time for marketers to shift their focus to conversion rates, and marketing channels with better statistics.
One alternative marketing channel with significantly better conversion rates is word-of-mouth. Around 2.1 billion word-of-mouth (WOM) recommendations are shared every day. As you’ll recall, almost nobody trusts paid ads, and this is the killer advantage of WOM: People can trust recommendations from people they know and listen to. A paid ad is company-driven, not personality and trust-driven. Just imagine that a friend recommends a pair of shoes she bought. How likely are you to buy that pair or a similar pair versus if you saw a paid ad for it? For 96% of people, the answer is obvious.
However, digital WOM recommendations can fall into the same trap as paid ads, which is how can you know the recommendation you’re seeing is authentic? This is where authentication mechanisms come in, which connects content creators, authenticators, and social platforms.
Predicting the future is always a bit of a shot in the dark, but the trends and historical data all point to a decline in paid ads and the rise of word-of-mouth. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think paid ads will ever disappear, and I don’t think word-of-mouth will become the sole marketing channel. In modern marketing, these have always been and will continue to be useful tools for marketers, in the right circumstances. However, circumstances are changing, with the combined over-saturation of paid ads and worsening user attention making word-of-mouth a much more attractive alternative to consider.