My morning went something like this. I swung into my local café, grabbed a cup of coffee and a croissant. I Instagrammed the coffee, tweeted my rushed breakfast in the car with the hashtag #rushingwomen and shared both to my Facebook feed, quickly checked my emails and responded to a pile of meeting requests.
This behaviour is, of course, absolutely normal for many of us. Never before have we been subjected to, or have chosen to engage with, such high volumes of information and rapid rates of consumption. We are always plugged in and are constantly craving information and connection with our digital communities. No matter where you are or which generation you belong to, chances are you’re already wired in. My mother in Malta recently bought a smartphone and installed Viber to call me here in New Zealand. She’s 65 – point made.
In June this year, Microsoft launched its Clutter folder to all Outlook users to assist us with better email management. The theory is that this new folder acts as a filter, moving what it deems as low priority mail away from your inbox where it is more easily ignored, or maybe read later. So, tell me, what does the Junk folder do these days?
I risk revealing my age by remembering fondly a time when we chose cool notification sounds to alert us to incoming mail. If you search the recesses of your mind, at least some of you will recall the iconic colloquialism “You've got mail”. Now, notifications and alerts are turned off for fear of insanity.
So how much do we consume and how fast does good, bad or trivial news travel these days?
Information binge: Every day the average person produces six newspapers worth of information compared with just two and a half pages 24 years ago, an increase of almost 200 times.
Speed freaks: The infamous Ellen Degenere’s selfie at the 2014 Oscars was seen by 32.8 million people on Twitter in just 12 hours.
What does this volume of information and speed of consumption mean for retailers?
Retailers are aware they need to be fast, be ready to react to the ever changing market and be there with their audience. Digital platforms, including social, offer retailers seemingly simple, flexible and rapid access to their market. There’s hardly a retailer I know who doesn’t have some form of digital and social strategy in progress. (If you don’t have one, call me!)
But with the ease of entry to sending electronic communications so low and a 'must be reactive' mentality, it pays to be mindful of the pitfalls of being fast and loose with messaging.
For example, in one week, I received three eDMs from major brands with errors, all of which then sent corrective emails to atone for their errors. (Too little, too late Countdown, Selaks and Huffer via DressSmart). Yes, we’re all human, but should being reactive take precedence over creating and sending interesting, accurate and well-curated content?
That same week I saw an Australian Women’s Weekly Facebook post with a spelling error. A magazine. Really?
But it seems the need for speed does mean mistakes, and luckily for us, social platforms have adapted to provide us with second-chance tools. Facebook rolled out their “Edit post” functionality in 2013. (Previously you were able to edit comments on posts but not the posts themselves.) In 2014, Instagram introduced caption and location editing through their app, servicing the user’s need to rectify typing mistakes and bad hashtags.
But bad news for professionals: eDMs don’t have an edit function. Once you hit that Send button - there's no going back.
So what can you do to minimise the risks?
Slow down and plan ahead
Like a Boy or Girl Scout, you need to plan and prepare. Have detailed plans prepared with approved information and activity so you aren’t working on the fly to create copy. You wouldn't go into a radio recording without a script, so why treat an email or a social media post differently?
Curation is key
Yeah, you reacted first. Who cares? Have you created a communication that is interesting and entertaining for your audience? Instead of fast, chaotic, throw-it-all-at-the-wall marketing hoping something sticks, the focus should be on connecting with your customer and enhancing their experience with you.
Process and procedure
It’s not sexy, but make sure you have solid checks and process in place. Sometimes this is as simple as getting someone else to proof your content.
Don’t spam your customers. They get enough dross from other brands, products and retailers. Be the brand or retailer that stops, thinks, collects and provides considered content, at a time when the consumer is likely to want to digest it. They’ll definitely open your email, or read your posts rather than your competitors. Why? Because it’s interesting. Not because it was first.
We may be rushing women, speed freaks and be thriving on the mass consumption of information, but it’s not an excuse to get sloppy with our output. We all need to create time to send messages which are meaningful, timely and accurate. No matter how busy our day, it's our job as top quality retailers to do just that and avoid the need for speed at any cost.
This copy originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 740 October / November 2015.