With the Internet and prevalence of smart phones, we now live in the era of constant comparison, where consumers have access to just about every product and every piece of information about those products, and it’s all thanks to digital.
Flyers, word of mouth and merchandising used to be the only things consumers had to rely on to compare products to each other. They cross referenced. They talked (with their mouths – no texting!) to their friends. While people still do that – the stats about peer recommendation and the power of flyers and catalogues prove it – there’s a new layer that is at least as important and powerful. You may know it best as that super computer you carry in your pocket and watch cat videos on.
With the Internet and prevalence of smart phones, we now live in the era of constant comparison, where consumers have access to just about every product and every piece of information about those products, and it’s all thanks to digital. In fact, 59% of online shoppers are making more informed purchase decisions than they were just a few years ago.
The trend has manifested itself in more ways than just our shopping behaviours, and it’s important to see it as for the larger trend it is. Ratings and reviews are inherent in everything we do online – even things you may not expect. Think of the last time you opened your maps app and used it to plot a way to your destination. It probably gave you a handful of options, along with their pros and cons, for you to choose from and compare.
The power of comparison and its integration with our everyday life extends even further. People are comparing their potential dates one swipe at a time. Every movie we see comes with a critic and tomato rating. Million-dollar websites have popped up to simply help you pick the best restaurant near you, and they often update by the minute based on what other people have decided. When it comes to hotels, you have countless options to compare prices, ratings and amenities.
Technology has empowered us to expect the best, and have all the information available to determine what that is. Google searches for “best” product have grown by 50% year over year, and YouTube reviews of products grew at roughly the same rate. We want the best, and we will not accept anything less. We’ll find it one click at a time.
Obviously that’s true of consumer decisions, and there are a handful of ways retailers are ensuring their options rank highly. First, they’re using online reviews. From the manufacturer, to online retailers, most websites are providing user reviews side-by-side the other product information. Interestingly, a common best practice shows that providing a handful of bad reviews is an extremely powerful tool in providing a credibility to your good reviews.
Secondly, the use or creation of video content and influencers has become extremely successful for consumer products. There’s a massive YouTube trend of “Unboxing” videos that simply show a person opening up the factory packaging of a product and sharing their first impression. People watch this content in droves (we’d be lying if we said we hadn’t watched one or two…), and it illustrates an important point: consumers want as much information before they purchase as they can get. It’s not just about price. It’s about the product, the packaging and experience.
Today’s consumer can have anything they want and carrying the product that’s right for them is just half the battle. Providing customers with the information and comparative details is increasingly going to be table stakes. We’d bet on it, at least.