Time, Attention, and the 24-Hour Customer

Adrian Ott

By Adrian Ott

The success of the Nike+ has come during an era of real challenges for businesses. Consumers are spending only about 28 minutes each day researching and buying goods and services—that’s less than 3 percent of waking hours. In other industrialized countries, the figures appear to be similar. And despite the 24/7 availability afforded by the Internet, U.S. customers spend less than six minutes a day on e-commerce sites—that’s less than 1 percent of waking hours—a small window of time relative to the thousands of e-commerce Websites vying for attention.

Even business-to-business-sector executives making noncommodity purchases spend a fraction of their time doing this (between 10 and 15 percent of working hours). They are not lining up to meet with vendors or to read marketing materials on top of an already overflowing in-box.

It would seem logical that increasing the available opportunities for customers to buy would have increased the amount of time customers spend buying. However, the introduction of around-the-clock e-commerce and 24-hour store schedules has not significantly changed the amount of purchase time. Despite the opportunity to shop in your slippers at midnight, the time spent on shopping and services in the United States has remained relatively steady from 2003 to 2008 even when travel to and from a store is excluded from consideration. In fact U.S. time-use studies have shown that the amount of time spent purchasing goods and services has remained relatively constant since the 1960s. Viewed together, the increase in the number of available products coupled with the relatively static time spent buying present a considerable challenge for executives.

Ultimately, more and more goods and services are attempting to push through a small window of time. Meanwhile, the amount of information available on the Internet has exploded. It’s like an assembly line where there is capacity upstream to build widgets, but everything is piling up at the warehouse because there are not enough trucks to ship the final widgets to the consumer. A bottleneck of time prevents many offerings from ever reaching their intended audience.

From “THE 24-HOUR CUSTOMER: New Rules for Winning in a Time-Starved, Always-Connected Economy.” Copyright © 2010 by Adrian C. Ott. Posted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.