Web Comparison Tools Erode Brand Loyalty

Web Comparison Tools Erode Brand LoyaltyYesterday we asked the question – is technology destroying brand loyalty, looking at a recent Strategy+Business study.  The research is pointing to people doing much more comparison shopping with web tools in order to make decisions on more absolute information.

The study cites statistics that show people already use—and trust—these recommendation tools. They point to these three facts:

• In 2012, 70 percent of consumers surveyed by Nielsen indicated that they trusted online reviews—which represents an increase of 15 percent in four years.

• Thirty percent of U.S. consumers start their online purchase research with Amazon, which, with its wealth of reviews, is a clearinghouse for product information.

• Research done for Google in 2011 found that the average shopper consults 10.4 information sources prior to purchase—almost twice as many as in 2010.

Research done in 2011 found that the average shopper consults 10.4 information sources prior to purchase.

Can the technologies and tools be manipulated? Absolutely. Remember the famous Yelp scandals that caused some restaurants to be kicked off the site. Or who hasn’t been asked by a service person to “if there is any reason you don’t feel like your experience deserves all 5 stars, please let me know now before you leave?”

Data can be twisted with fake reviews, paid bloggers and other corrupt data. Yet research shows these fakes have minimal impact with buyers. I find nearly every time I read a set of reviews I can come up with a reason for throwing out a review that is either too glowing or too negative. My rationale is one person can just be a complainer. 3 or 4, now there is a real issue.

But what of the impact on decision making? Do decisions become more difficult when there is too much help? Some argue that this clutter is ultimately cut through with brands, so they still do matter. Yet with better and better tools to slice and dice data, the decision support information will also become more tuned.

Great brands will in all likelihood still survive. New brands will likely become ever more difficult to establish, like a movie Hollywood promotes ahead of a weekend, then buries quickly if it fails to draw large crowds.

However the impact on marketing and sales will be significant. Value will need to be much more clearly articulated and interpreted for the specific buyer. Sales will play an increasingly important role cutting through the clutter. This was demonstrated this week with the news that Travel Agents are seeing an upswing in business as travelers grow tired of seeking the best deal from 40 different web sites. Customer service likely also becomes a more important differentiator, and perhaps a sales channel.

What do you think?


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