Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Return on My Attention

I grew up in North Vancouver, in an area called Lynn Valley.  At the end of the 60’s, we bought a new home next to a creek at the top of Mountain Highway, with nothing but miles of Grouse Mountain cedar forest to explore on the uphill side of our home.  For many years, and nearly every day, my father graced the entrance of a small corner store on his way home from the office to pick up a pack of wine-tipped Cigarello’s.  Over time, he never had to get past ‘hello’ at the counter … they knew exactly what he was there for. Conversation was probably pretty light, as my father unfortunately didn’t speak a word of Cantonese.

Inevitably and eventually we moved far, far away, yet we returned to the North Shore of Vancouver for many a summer visit.  One particular return visit was seven years later, and on this trip, my father decided to stop in for old time’s sake to his favorite corner store on Mountain Highway. Well, even after a seven year absence, I’ll be damned if they didn’t recognize him … immediately reaching to the sturdy shelf behind and sliding a pack of wine-tipped Cigarello’s across the counter in his direction. My father was never more impressed.

Simple stories like this are becoming increasingly rare. When was the last time you recall receiving value from a vendor where your personal preferences shaped your transactional experience in such a way as to present you with highly relevant choices and enhancing the return on your attention?

We live in an attention-scarce society, with more demands on our time than we have time to demand.  I agree that we’re heading into the “Attention Economy”, and I expect we’ll see a major shift in power to those businesses who find ways to meaningfully enhance the return on my attention. John Hagel put it very well today in Edge Perspectives;

“ As I emphasized in Net Worth, the real value of the infomediary comes from using attention profiles to reduce interaction costs and increase return on attention. The infomediary can help customers to sort through all the options competing for their attention and to connect rapidly and conveniently with the resources that matter the most to them – not only through search but, increasingly, through recommendation services based on deeper understanding of their interests and preferences. ”

In my search for value and time expediency in my next eCommerce transaction, will they slide a package of Cigarello’s across the internet counter? I certainly hope not. I hate Cigarello’s. I don’t even smoke ...

… But for those paying attention, a nice Shiraz will certainly do.