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Digital Detox: Should eCommerce Brands be Concerned?

Consumers live online, which is fantastic news for eCommerce brands. In any given day, a brand has dozens of chances to get in front of their audience through social and paid ads, email shots, content marketing and more. Every one of these chances represents an opportunity to sell something, or to help your users feel more bought in to your brand.

But is the bubble about to burst? Have consumers had enough of 24/7 connectivity? And if so, what does that mean for the world of eCommerce?

 

15m Brits are detoxing on digital

Ofcom digital detox ecommerceNew research from Ofcom suggests consumers are indeed tiring of always-on internet access. The regulator’s latest Communications Market Report reveals that one in three adult internet users (equivalent to 15 million people across the UK) have deliberately spent time offline. Of these so-called digital detoxers, a quarter spent up to a day away from the web; one in five were offline for up to a week; and one in 20 stayed disconnected for up to a month.

This begs the question: having bought smartphones, demanded faster broadband, and switched off their TVs in favour of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, why are people now actively avoiding the web?

It appears that for many people, a digital tipping point has been reached. ‘Connectivity creep’ – or spending longer online in a day than intended – was cited as a concern by almost half of internet users surveyed, while more than a third said they’d spent longer than planned using social media. A worrying 59% said they feel hooked to their smartphone or tablet, and a third admitted they find it tough to disconnect.

eCommerce brands and the digital detox

Another reported side-effect of our constant ability to access the internet is what Ofcom describes as ‘tech tardiness’, or lateness resulting from being online. A fifth of users admitted they had turned up late to meet family and friends, while one in ten said they had been late for work. In short, connectivity creep is having an adverse effect on people’s lives.

How can eCommerce brands battle digital detox?Our social interactions are also being hampered by the internet. Two-fifths of adults felt they had been ignored by a friend or relative’s preoccupation with their smartphone or tablet at least once a week, while almost one in five claimed this happened on a daily basis.

This contrasts with the apparent benefits of spending time offline. A third of digital detoxers said they felt more productive away from the internet, a quarter described the experience as “liberating”, and a further quarter said they enjoyed life more. However, there were some negatives: 16% said they encountered “FOMO” (fear of missing out), 15% felt lost, and 14% felt cut off.

 

What does this mean for brands?

Ofcom’s survey is yet more confirmation of something that brands – particularly online retailers – should already know. There’s so much noise online, and so many people vying for attention, that consumers are becoming exhausted.

That means you need to display some finesse in all of your communications with consumers. If your current digital strategy revolves around bombarding potential customers with remarketing on social platforms and across the web, or sending generic emails to your full email list, you’re unlikely to win many friends.

Effective targeting and knowing your audience are more important than ever. You need to understand their buying habits and the intent behind their online activity to ensure you’re communicating with them in the right way, and at the right time.

On a simple level, this could mean understanding the point in the week your audience is most likely to buy, then targeting them with your latest offers at this specific time. Or, as our Paid Social Campaign Manager Tom Everson explains in this great blog post, you should build a profile of your VIP customers, and define your average customer journey length to identify the sort of messaging needed at each stage of the buyer cycle.

Ideally, you’ll be doing all of these things – and more – in order to ensure that every single time you target a customer, your message is timely, relevant and well-received.

 

Final thoughts

Jane Rumble, Director of Market Intelligence at Ofcom, explains: “Millions of us are taking a fresh look at the role of technology in our lives, and going on a digital detox to get a better tech-life balance.” As an eCommerce brand, you should be doing everything within your power to ensure that you’re not the reason your audience decides it’s time to take a break from the internet.

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