While we think of information overload as a modern phenomenon, it actually dates back hundreds of years. Probably the greatest surge happened with Gutenberg’s invention of movable type which led to the production of printed matter that far exceeded what the human mind could absorb in a lifetime.
Since then, with ongoing developments and today’s new technology, the amount of information being produced is virtually limitless. It has been said that in the last 10 years there has been more information created than in all of human history.
This, of course, has had huge impacts in the world of marketing. Prior to the year 2000 research indicated that the average consumer saw between 500 to 1,600 ads per day. Fast forward to 2021 and it is estimated that those numbers have jumped to between 6,000 and 10,000 ads on an average day.
The age-old question for marketers is how do you break through all that noise and clutter? What can be done to mitigate the burden of this information overload for your customers?
While there is not one clear answer, there are things that you can do to overcome some of these issues. The first, of course, is to keep it simple. The less information a person has to wade through, the easier it is for them to understand.
Following this is the importance of keeping it relevant. If you know who your customers are then you can give them the information they actually need without having to waste their valuable time. This means that your information must be concise, presented with clarity and if more information is required make it easy for them to access it. For example, there are many websites or AI answering services out there that have so many layers it often becomes so frustrating for the consumer that it turns into a PR nightmare, or worse, a cancelled order.
Information overload is not just relegated to the domain of the digital world and print. Prior to 2000, there were between 8,000 and 9,000 items available in the average grocery store, by 2020 that jumped to nearly 40,000. And with the average household needing only 150 items that means there are lots of items on the shelves that simply get ignored.
However, with the pandemic things have been changing and the future may look very different as some companies are solving the production gap and inefficiencies by reducing the number of items they offer in one product line. For example, General Mills Inc. reduced its Progresso soup selection from about 90 varieties to 50, focusing only on its top sellers. And this goes back to the first rule of mitigating information overload… simplify. The same can be held true for many industries or services.
This exponential growth of information will continue well into the future. It will be up to you to make a conscious effort to ensure you are not overwhelming your customers by providing them with the information they need in order to take action.
Joe Smith is a communications consultant and an accomplished fine artist. He can be reached via email firstname.lastname@example.org