We are browsers by nature. Imagine yourself at the mall, or on a street lined with colorful shops. What compels you to stop in to any one store? I’ll bet the window display has something to do with it.
Think about a store that caught your attention recently: How was the merchandise arranged? What did you notice first—banners, signage, displays, or mannequins?
Stores have thoughtfully created environments to capitalize on our browser mentality; well-written and well-designed marketing collateral should do the same. Just like the window display gives you clues as to the contents of what’s inside, mission-driven marketing materials should communicate to your target audience what your organization does. Just as a well-designed storefront encourages walk-ins, your marketing collateral should entice the audience to come in, look around, and “buy” your message.
Getting your audience’s attention
The downside of a busy shopping district is a lot of competition. Likewise, our information age means anyone attempting to reach an audience has to contend with a lot of content also vying for their attention. We’ve become “skimmers” as a result. Your organization’s message is important—worth more than a quick skim—and you want your target audience to get it. But how?
Like the store that knows how to stand out, you need to court the browser’s skimming nature in a strategic way. An initial pass through of your print and online communication allows your reader to quickly determine what messages pique their interest. How your content is written, visualized, and laid out plays a starring role in accomplishing that goal.
The power of images
Consider that 90% of information transmitted to our brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. If that’s not enough of an argument: 40% of people respond better to visual information than plain text.
The role of images in communication is clearly huge, and we all know that well-placed visual elements signal to the consumer that they’re in the right place. If a visual has relevance to the skimmer’s interest, they will stay a bit longer to explore the meaning behind it.
Killer headlines are crucial
The next hook? Your headline—a critical element in converting your skimmer into a reader. On average, eight out of 10 people will read a headline, but only two out of 10 will read further. Your power to change that is all about crafting the perfect headline. You may have heard this before, but it bears repeating: compelling copy simply means that the reader is pushed to read onto the next sentence, and then the next, down to your call-to-action.
Beyond the headline
So your headline has sparked interest in a potential reader—the browser mentality doesn’t end there. You need to coax your audience a bit more. Subheads, lead paragraphs, captions, accent images, and even bulleted lists are a smart way of revealing more about your content. Each is meant to direct the reader to the finer details—your body copy.
These elements combined are the browser-level components. Not only are they critical to encouraging your audience to slow down and read your story through to the end, but also serve to aid the person tasked with creating the visual design of the message in the first place. Each component together forms the building blocks that a designer uses to lay out both the written and visual information, with a hierarchy that stands up to your audience’s tendencies. The well-written message and well-designed layout must work hand-in-hand to leverage browsing and communicate your mission-driven marketing message.
Get them in the store
A retailer’s first goal is to get the shopper into their store with the ultimate intention of making a sale. Similarly, the number-one goal of headlines and related graphic elements is to compel your audience to read the first sentence of your marketing message—in the end, a message that is meant to persuade them to take action.
Like a window display, the strategy to engage a browser is to achieve that goal by first arousing the curiosity of your reader and then finally steering them toward making a connection with your organization. Embracing your reader’s inclination to scan and bounce around by building the browser level into your copywriting and design is key. Ignore your audience’s tendency, and you may find that they ignore your message.