off the gridIt’s hard to believe that twenty years ago, only 14% of U.S. adults had internet access. 42% had never even heard of it.

My, how times have changed.

Today, an estimated 92.5% of Americans have broadband internet access in their homes. 90% have a cell phone, and 64% own a smartphone of some sort (up 29% from 2011). That’s right: Not only do most of us have internet access — we have it at our fingertips, everywhere we go. And let’s not stop at the border. By 2020, an estimated 80% of the people on the planet will have phones capable of some sort of internet connection. (That’s more phones than toothbrushes!)

Screens have officially become a hugely important part of our lives, and they now play an integral role in keeping us connected with one another across town… and across the world. That’s just one of the many benefits to the rapid proliferation of internet and mobile technology.

But there’s no denying that there are downsides, too.

For instance, it’s nearly impossible to escape the constant noise and output of screens. They’re everywhere we go, from our offices to our schools to our homes and all the places we play, shop and eat.

As a marketer, I’m sure you love the 24-7 opportunities to interact with customers and prospects. However, you have to remember that all of us are on the same grid, competing for the attention of an audience that’s increasingly distracted. It may be tempting to try to score a win by being the loudest or most frequent voice out there… and yet, we know from our own experiences that no one likes to be pummeled into submission by a relentless barrage of marketing messages.

Is there a way to make your voice stand out from the fray without persistent yelling?

Yes, there is. You can distinguish yourself by shifting your focus to marketing campaigns that are customer-centric and individualized. You can use data driven marketing to create a seamless, relevant, helpful customer experience — rather than another meaningless, intrusive pitch that consumers find so annoying.

The vast majority (90 percent) of the marketers who participated in our Teradata 2015 Global Data-Driven Marketing Survey told us that making their marketing individualized is a priority. Unfortunately, though, only 50 percent said they routinely apply data to individualize their messages and offers. Until that number climbs higher, a significant portion of the marketplace will continue to ignore or tune out anything related to marketing.

Not that “tuning out” is always bad. Actually, putting the screens away is a pretty great thing to do now and then — because that simple action allows our eyes to go elsewhere. Like up in the sky, to see the stars. Like across the table, to see the folks you love. Like down the road, towards the beach waiting for your visit.

Those “off-the-grid” moments are the most valuable of all. But now that it’s becoming more and more difficult to claim them, I believe marketers should step up to the challenge and provide more meaningful interactions on the grid, too.

So tell me: How will YOU be making / taking time off the grid this year time around?