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Just get to the point!

Experience shows that you probably won't bother reading this article to the end. But you should do it anyway. It'll be worth it in the end (and no cheating!).

We live in a digital age. For better or worse. Everything you say and do on the web "can and will be used against you". On the other hand, it has given us tremendous opportunities for cost transparency, product searching, quick research, endless entertainment possibilities, creativity, a huge knowledge base, networks and a global reach for both consumers and businesses unparalleled in history.

The majority of us are online most of the time - via computers, tablets and smartphones. And this affects our lives and our behavioural patterns to a very great extent. And it has greatly influenced the way we read.

Modern living

Image by Marko Kudjerski

Only one out of 10 readers read the article to the end

And now - Quick, to the Batmobile! – because some readers have already abandoned this article. Ten per cent already left at the headline and subheading and by this point, 38 per cent of those who actually made it onto the page have already left, according to an analysis by the research company Chartbeat. They didn't give the article a chance and - if we talk in general terms – therefore they most probably didn't acquire a recognisable knowledge about the product or subject. And when we have passed the point where you have to start scrolling, even more abandon the page. Fifty-five per cent of website visitors use less than fifteen seconds before they move on. Nevertheless, there are quite a few who still 'like' the article, post a comment on it or share the link on social media. It is quite common that we link to articles that we haven't even read to the end, but that are important for us to indicate as being read to others in an attempt to manifest our own identity and values. The analysis from Chartbeat also reports that just a few hundred words into the article, only half the readers are left. And only one out of 10 readers read the article to the end.

We feel therefore very honoured if you are still with us and by all means stick around a bit longer- it's all going so well.

We behave superficially and lack self-discipline

We read differently on the screen. When we scroll, we tend to read faster and more superficially than when we read a book or a printed document, where we move from side to side. But when we are online, the universe is filled with a huge amount of information and tempting distractions. There are so many possible sources, so many websites and so many alternatives that we read quickly and can experience difficulty in maintaining our interest in a single web page.

On the screen, people tend to surf, search for keywords and read in a less linear, more selective way - and skimming is the new reading form. The more we read online, the more likely it is that we rush forwards without stopping to expand upon any thoughts that might pop up along the way.

Online reading also tends to tire us out more quickly than print due to the constant need of having to filter hyperlinks and possible distractions. And our eyes can become tired of the constantly changing screens with different layouts, colours and contrasts.

In reality, the biggest challenge with online reading is that it's all about self-discipline. When you read print, you only need to motivate yourselves once to pick up the book or document. But the internet exposes you to so many temptations that you have to constantly motivate yourself to keep your concentration on a single article or a specific topic.

The future's digital receivers – are you ready for them?

People today have been compared to smartphones and tablets - their ability to solve problems does not depend on the knowledge they can store in their brains, but their capacity to connect to a place where they can find the answer. This is what some have called the "hyper-link" economy. The only knowledge we need to have is knowing where to find it, we want to know. And the future digital receivers, the new generation of youths growing up today, have this knowledge.

Goodbye to the 4 Ps and hello to concepts like "prosumers"

In the "old days", the four Ps of marketing were: product, place, promotion and price. But the game has changed in the digital age. Future digital consumers are no longer just focused on the product but also the experience. They no longer care if the product is "in the right place", because they already know what they want to buy. Neither is the price something that is simply dictated by the producers - price transparency on the internet means that consumers are very much involved in helping to determine the price. Promotion is still important, but these days it's more about creating engagement.

Whereas the 20th century industrial society showed a clear distinction between consumers and producers, this line has become blurred, creating modern concepts such as trust pilots, crowdsourcing and co-creation. Walmart Labs, for example, used "the crowd" to determine which products should be on the shelves and on their website. Similarly, the confectionary manufacturer Lay has been using customers' creativity to launch products with new flavours through competitions in over 15 countries since 2008.

This development is just the beginning and will only be reinforced by "the internet of things", Big Data, 3D printers and many other things that help to transform "consumers" to "prosumers", who are increasingly becoming capable of creating, producing and sharing a wide range of products and services at even lower marginal costs - just as they already do with information being offered. Companies have to adopt these developments and embrace the consumers in a dynamic interaction.

Paris metro

Image by Jimmy B

A short intro to the future's digital receivers

  • Are today's youth and they set new standards for tomorrow's communication. Are not box-thinking as the previous generation. They see the world as their playground, they are groundbreaking and creative, they are the most social, and they embrace the world in a broader, more open way than ever seen before.
  • Will buy more online and this covers many more product categories.
  • Are far more demanding and want to have an impact on companies' products and services.
  • Are very price conscious and less loyal to brands. But loyalty can be generated through a close dynamic interaction between customer and company, as well as social and environmental values sent out by the company.
  • Do not have the same active knowledge as previous generations, but they know how to find it.
  • Are not a homogeneous group. Studies of hyper digital consumers show that they range from people who are very active on the social network to people who practically avoid it. From frequent and often spontaneously purchasers to highly selective consumers who still prefer the physical world. From those who remain loyal to brands to the very price conscious.

Is localisation even necessary?

More than half the world's population don't understand English well enough to be able to find their way around an English-language website. Yet it is a common and convenient assumption for many companies that everyone understands English, and therefore it is not necessary to make versions of the communication in the local language.

But this is a costly assumption in relation to potential sales, indicates an analysis from the Common Sense Advisory issued in February 2014. The survey included Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Spain and Turkey with 300 consumers from each country. Almost half claimed to be able to read English without or with just a few problems, but the linguistic characteristics varied greatly from country to country.

More than half of the respondents used more time on web pages in their own language or avoided pages in English altogether. Price, selection and better products were listed as the main reasons for visiting the pages in English regardless of the users' competence in the language.

74 per cent of respondents said that they would probably buy the same product again if...

Shopping cart

Image by Jesse Acosta

As a company this is obviously beneficial information, as the study also shows that even though people are on the website and are interested in the product, they often fail to buy because they simply understand too little. In other words, website content in the local language plays a critical role when attempting to change a web surfer into a customer. And it is not enough just to translate parts of the site - you have to go all the way and translate everything from detailed product information to manuals and after-sale follow-up contact to the customer. 74 per cent of respondents said they would be more likely to buy the same product again if the follow-up was conducted in their own language.

So yes, localisation is absolutely necessary. The most basic lesson from the survey is that people don't buy what they can't understand. Even those who are well-versed in the English language clearly prefer their own language. While people with limited knowledge of English are often on the verge of clicking away. While they may tolerate English today, experience shows that they will sooner or later choose alternative opportunities in their own language.

In short

As a company, you need to ensure that your digital communication is accurate, targeted and carefully considered - then you will stand a much better chance of distinguishing yourself in the fight for attention.

Thank you for following with us all the way! That makes you one out of 10 and means you either possess an impressively high level of self-discipline or we have been lucky enough to attract you with the right content that created attention and the desire to read on.

10 good tips in digital communication

1: What's in it for me?

This is an important driving force in the online universe, which is filled with so many temptations and potential distractions. Catch the reader's interest with a catchy headline that is active, solution-oriented, challenging, informative and creates curiosity. Do the same at the start of all the other sections, so the reader – who has typically opened the page because he/she is interested in the subject – is tempted to read on.

2: Keep it short and create good content

Readers are busy, they are demanding and critical. Get to the point quickly and precisely. It's a good idea to use a key points summary, if the article is longer or bullet points. Create a quick overview.

However, there is still place for good content and longer stories. Good content and good storytelling sticks, it can be shared, it creates momentum. Impatient users can still be caught with compelling stories, videos, photographs or illustrations, whether they are informative or entertaining, or just a good way to pass the time. Our brains are programmed to move quickly forward in a world overloaded with information, but when we encounter something that catches our attention, another part of the brain is used, making us linger and remain focused.

3: Layout

The text layout has a significant effect on the reading experience. We read faster when the lines are longer, but only to a certain point. We read more effectively when the text is in a single column. Font, colour and text size can all contribute to making the reading process easier or more difficult. These variables are of course also found in print, but the possibilities are far greater in the online universe. Online you can experience hugely different layouts with every single click, and each time you are required to find your bearings and adapt your eyes and reading approach - and this can become quite tiring. Therefore: Make the page attractive and functional, but don't make the composition too complex - and don't go overboard with graphical and technical tools, which will make the reader quickly lose interest.

4: Make your page personal

A "one size fits all"" approach is totally banned. Your customers expect you to know who they are, so make sure you show it in your communication.

5: Fast loading of the webpage

Users have little patience. 1 out of 4 will leave a site if it takes more than 4 seconds to load. A recent analysis of digital shopping in the UK and the US show that 67 per cent and 51 per cent of customers respectively state slow loading as the primary reason for leaving a page.

6: Steal from competitors

Also known as inspiration. If you sse a page where the structure works perfectly, then do your own in the same way. No need to reinvent the wheel twice.

7: Language

Language today is considerably different to 100 years ago and is characterised by the fact that we read quickly and watch lots of TV and videos. Use a modern language without being flippant. It should be fresh, direct, challenging, playful and at the same time signal that the sender possesses competence and insight - even when it is a complicated topic or product. No spelling errors!

8: Video and pictures

Most website visitors look at all the pictures and videos. Therefore you should carefully consider which pictures you believe emphasise your message best. Make your video targeted and informative, professional, entertaining and short - max. 5 minutes..

9: Localisation

Whether you want to supply information or promote a product or service, localisation has a great impact on the success of your communication. It is important that you have a strategy in relation to the company's communication to the various global markets: Is the target group for communication localised in a market where there are strong skills in e.g. English? Or would localisation be crucial for communication success? You need to study your market's demographic and cultural characteristics and on that basis develop a strategy for the content for which countries require localising.

10: Engage your customers

Online customers are increasingly active and want to speak their minds. They want the opportunity to criticise, praise, comment, suggest. Make links to social media from the website. Create the opportunity for direct feedback. Create competitions that give customers an influence on product development. Create some kind of interaction platform. Be creative!