Behavioral Insight 10: Attention

Behavioral Insight 10: Attention

This is the last post in a series focusing on behavioral ideas or theories and how they relate to a specific area within email marketing and e-commerce. In this post we’ll examine the notion of attention and the effect it imposes on email layout.

What is it?

Attention is the cognitive ability to selectively focus or concentrate on a specific set of information while ignoring other available information. The concept of attention is something everyone understands, since everyone experiences it. But why do we need to direct attention towards something in the first place? Can’t we just absorb all information at all times and then use what we need?

The answer is no.

The human brain’s capacity to process information is limited due to our biology and consequently there is a limit to the number of cognitive processes we can operate simultaneously. Research shows that attention can be divided between different tasks but that the performance of these tasks drops drastically with every new task added. Again, this is something we all experience. The consequence of this drop in performance is that we cannot divide our attention indefinitely. In addition, the ability to divide our attention drops further depending on the difficulty level of the task. This is important to remember when creating the layout of an email or newsletter.

How does it relate to email marketing?

Knowing that your recipients operate with a limited amount of ‘processing power’, it is paramount that you help them divide their cognitive capabilities in the most efficient manner. If your newsletter is hard to navigate, cluttered and overall confusing, it will require more concentration from your recipients than a clean, intuitive, easy to navigate newsletter layout. If there is too much going on, or too many elements to focus on without any clear sign of what is relevant, it will irritate the recipient. Keeping the layout simple and clean will go a long way towards helping the recipient find what they need and prevent them from closing the email out of sheer frustration.

Keeping the layout simple and clean will go a long way towards helping the recipient find what they need and prevent them from closing the email out of sheer frustration.

Another way to incorporate the idea of attention is to make things stand out. This is a commonly used practice within call to action buttons. The great thing about making things stand out from their surroundings, is that it tells the recipient what to focus their attention on. It functions as a way for the email marketer to direct the recipient’s focus and save them the time and effort of having to search for the important aspects of an newsletter themselves, thereby creating a smoother and more effortless reading experience.

Changing size, color, contrast and position of elements are great ways to make things stand out. As an email marketer you have the tools available to design your email layout anyway you want, and therefore why not make it as easy and comfortable for recipients as possible. If recipients feel comfortable navigating your email, they are ultimately more likely to respond to the call to action and click or buy…

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