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Hyper-personalization and the Attention Economy

Updated: Feb 10, 2019



The concept of an Attention Economy has been around since Herbert Simon introduced the concept in 1969. He wrote:

“Now when we speak of an information-rich world, we may expect, analogically, that the wealth of information means a dearth of something else — a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”

Our attention is a scarce commodity and brands must compete for that attention. The rise of user-generated content has created a virtual tsunami of content competing for our attention. There are roughly 4 billion people connected to the internet, but that growth curve is flattening. And there are limits on how much time a user can spend looking at content. But the amount of content available for consumption is growing faster than the “eyeball hours” available to consume it.

For brands trying to get their message out to customers or consumers, the challenge of getting your message “heard” is enormous. Jay Walker-Smith, the President of the Marketing firm Yankelovich describes the challenge this way:

"It's a non-stop blitz of advertising messages. Everywhere we turn we're saturated with advertising messages trying to get our attention."

According to Walker-Smith says we see as many as 5,000 marketing messages as day, compared to less than 500 a day in the 1970’s.

The companies that are winning the war for attention are using hyper-personalization as a key component of their “attention strategy.” In a recent blog post on personalization, Priyam Jha, of WebEngage, provided data on just how effective hyper-personalization is:

  • Conversions from Amazon’s on-site recommendations are 60% higher.

  • Starbuck’s hyper-personalization engine the system can send over 400,000 variants of hyper-personalized messages. Through the use of the system, Starbucks increased their marketing campaign effectiveness by 3x through the use of over 400,000.

In the same blog post, Jha offered this graph showing the personalization maturity curve:


This need for hyper-personalization has spawned a new generation of ad-tech and marketing-tech startup in Silicon Valley and around the world. They are bringing the kind of personalization technology used by the huge brands to all brands, including startups.

From a marketing perspective, understanding this war for attention and gaining access to the tools to compete is no longer a “nice to have” but is becoming a “must have.” The following infographic sums up why:



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