Access to information today is everywhere.
Customers can enter a query and, within seconds, be led to hundreds of resources that may help them reach a conclusion or find the answer they need.
While this, at first, looks like a positive, all too often, consumers become overwhelmed or paralyzed due to what is referred to as information overload.
Such a phenomenon isn’t new.
Variations of information overload date back through history, particularly showing up in the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution.
Yet, today, it continues to build thanks to online accessibility and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Why should your business care about information overload? Consumers may knowingly or unknowingly experience various levels of stress from information overload or even suffer from information anxiety.
In most instances, this information overload and anxiety are caused by the massive amount of irrelevant information out there and not the voluminous data itself.
As a business, you can help fight increasing information overload and help your customers by reexamining and refining your own digital marketing strategy.
Find out how in this blog post.
What is Information Overload?
Managing the amount of information daily is a challenge for most everyone.
Today you have access to email, webpages, social media, mobile apps, and more, providing an explosion of potential information for every area of your life.
Information overload, then, is an excessive amount of information available to a customer to help him or her make a decision, complete a task, or answer a question.
As a result, such excessive information impedes the decision-making process and even causes increasing levels of stress and anxiety.
In other words, information overload often results in procrastination, decision-making delays, and a decline in the quality of the decisions made.
Too much information can affect a person’s ability to process information and make the best decisions for them personally.
What Causes Information Overload?
Many causes exist for the current state of information overload. The most common ones, however, include the following.
Quantity over Quality Thinking
Today the pressure on companies and brands to compete for consumers’ attention and provide the information they want and need continues to increase.
This is resulting in a quantity over quality effect and a major deterrent to your potential customers finding you and converting.
Massive amounts of new information are being created constantly, as content marketing continues to be essential to a brand across the various information channels available.
It’s easier than ever today to create and share information online, and that is adding to the information overload and its debilitating effects.
Many information channels offer simplified ways to access dashboards and disseminate content across the internet. Anyone can do it, and consumers are noticing and becoming overwhelmed.
The Increase in the Number of Information Channels
While once there were only a few ways to get information across to the population, today there are several, both online and off.
Print media, television, podcasts, emails, websites, social media, mobile apps, eBooks, and RSS feeds combine to offer access to information for anyone on the planet.
Addition of Historical Data Online
With new technology, historical data is now being added online for the convenience of consumers.
While this seems like an advantage, it also piles up the amount of available information, whereas once the historical data required physical research if truly needed.
Lack of Quality Control Measures
Today’s information modes lack structure and simple checks and balances to determine what content is repetitive, contradictory, conflicting, or inaccurate.
In the race to reach the most consumers, many businesses create content to get themselves seen, thinking that search engines will notice them more if they include volumes of content online.
The negative side of this is that while SEO is essential, adding too much content can harm your search engine result rankings.
Failure to Have a Content Marketing Plan
Without a robust content marketing plan, a company may put out information without regard to how it can all work together to help customers avoid being overwhelmed.
Many factors lead to information overload, and these are just a few of the main ones to consider when searching for ways to more efficiently connect with your target audiences.
The Risks of Information Overload
Information overload and the stress and anxiety it can cause are not only affecting consumers but can lead to a negative impact on your business as well.
Essentially, with such an overload, the brain can lose some of its power to process all of the available information. This leads to stress and can even stop your customers from taking action, which is what you don’t want.
With constant input of information and the task of storing it all, the brain is in constant activity. With no down periods, cognitive efficiency is altered and can affect the consumer’s concentration and contemplation skills.
This can lead to delays in decision-making or keep them from making any decisions at all.
Further, information overload is leading to conditions somewhat similar to attention deficit disorder, or ADD. As a result, consumers are feeling increasing levels of burnout and depression.
Another risk of information overload is that it can affect individuals by making them less productive and less innovative.
They also can suffer from psychosomatic complaints, such as breathing interruptions, as they contemplate all the information available before them.
All of these risks of information overload can directly affect your potential customers, and in turn, your business’s bottom line.
How Can a Company Fight Information Overload?
Information overload needs to be a concern for all companies.
But how can a business fight this information overload and help potential customers along the way?
Start by creating information that better matches the needs of your target audiences and keep the customer experience positive rather than confusing or overwhelming.
Here are several ways your company can help fight such information overload and win over new customers.
1. Improve Your Website with the Right Content
Start fighting information overload by reviewing and improving your own company’s website.
You want just the right amount of content on your web pages. That is, enough content to make it relevant but not lead to information overload for viewers.
Also, make your website easy to navigate. Consider including pillar pages to aggregate content for all your customers’ needs and help them find exactly what they need to solve a problem or answer a question without having to go elsewhere.
2. Rethink Your Buyer Personas
Take a close look at your current buyer personas. Are they still effective, or do they need revising in some way?
By reassessing and rethinking your buyer personas, you can make sure you are sharing relevant information for the right audiences and not just adding more content.
3. Conduct a Content Audit and Content Pruning
Conduct a content audit of your current offerings and consider ways to improve your strategy.
What are you currently sharing? Is anything outdated? Can you update anything to make it more relevant to today’s consumers?
The next step is content pruning. What can be deleted, combined, or redesigned?
Prune your content to better provide for potential customers without overwhelming them with information.
4. Use More Interactive Content
One helpful way to fight information overload is by creating interactive content. This type of relevant content is easier to consume and also benefits engagement in a fun way.
Think interactive polls, quizzes, calculators, and other content which entices engagement.
Today there are software options that can help you more readily and easily create this type of content, saving your company both time and money.
Interactive content brings a personal touch, and potential customers may steer to your information offerings instead of the many others out there offering only static content.
5. Incorporate Empathetic Marketing Techniques
Today’s younger generations are looking for brands to trust and who treat them more as individuals than profit potential.
By incorporating empathetic marketing techniques into your content, you can capture their attention while also providing them with valuable information.
To get started, answer these questions of your buyer persona:
- What is the problem (or problems) that needs solving?
- Can the particular problem be broken down in any way?
- What type of information is needed to resolve the defined problem and find the best solution?
By putting yourself in your potential customer’s shoes and seeing the problem through their eyes, you can create a content marketing strategy that meets their needs and wants more effectively.
6. Develop a Content Matrix
Instead of remaining reactive to the latest trends or providing disconnected content for potential customers, develop your own content matrix to keep your company on track.
A content matrix provides a framework to help direct your marketing efforts and includes a plan for addressing all the phases of the buyer’s journey.
It is a way of planning and organizing your content, avoiding repetition, and filling in any gaps in information relevant to your targeted audience.
7. Monitor Visitor Behavior
To identify how well your content is meeting the needs of potential customers, monitor user behavior on your website.
Do visitors stay long enough to read the entire page, or do they leave your website entirely after just a few seconds? Are they clicking on recommended links or engaging with your content in some way?
Use what you learn from this data to revise your website content, link building strategy, and anything else that can lead to less information overload.
8. Vary Your Content Types
Not all consumers have the time to read through dozens of blog posts, articles, or web pages to find answers.
Today, different content types are meeting their needs more efficiently, including videos and podcasts.
Keep this in mind as you determine how best to reach your particular audience, and vary your content types to find what works best.
To fight information overload takes commitment on your part and that of your marketing and management team.
All of the actions mentioned above can benefit both you and your potential customers in this fight. They can also provide clues as to the value of your content and help lower the effects of information overload consumers are experiencing today.
Additional ways you as a company can fight information overload is to keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Keep content relevant to your customers.
- Think clarity for all content, making it clear as to what it is providing and for whom.
- Present less information, keeping it simple and easily understood.
- Include supporting data in a concise manner.
- Stay balanced in your presentation, so readers don’t have to look elsewhere for information.
- Include easy ways for the customer to take a preferable action.
Essentially, if you provide a potential customer with everything they need, succinctly and completely, without overwhelming them, decisions can be made, and information overload is avoided.
Wrap Up: Businesses Can Help Fight Information Overload and Its Effects
Consumers need to make decisions daily, and when too much information is available, it can be detrimental to their ability to take action on what they learn.
Even when they do act, the decisions they make may not be the most advantageous for them due to that overabundance of information.
While the causes for information overload vary, from quantity over quality thinking to the ease of access to new and expanding mediums, there are ways to alleviate the strain your potential customers are experiencing.
As a business, you can help fight this information overload in a variety of ways, including providing more interactive content to help them along their buyer’s journey.
To find out more about it and how to make it work for your business, check out this all-inclusive Interactive Content guide to help set you on the right track.