The behavior of the web shopper – which by now is just about everyone – is interesting.
Does she/he trust the information presented? Does he/she trust Google? Is there anyone or anything that can be seen as a trustworthy source of information?
Or, alternatively, where is the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval of the web?
Brand marketers on the web are constantly moaning that consumers are fickle and have the attention span of a fish.
Common complaints? They click away very quickly and they show no loyalty. But surely it is the responsibility of the seller to ensure that they have a good trustworthy proposition on the web as anywhere else.
If we examine the typical place people go for “trust” type information it is places like the Better Business Bureau or the Consumers’ Union.
In the UK it's Which and the Citizens Advice Bureau among others.
One might also expect the government watchdogs to also provide some neutral information – but consumers are very frustrated by the delay and poor service from government organizations such as the Federal Trade Commission and Office of Fair Trading (UK).
The oversight European Commission consumer protection agency is SANCO, covering health and safety as well as consumer protection.
All of this is a pretty uninspiring solution of where to go for trust. So consumers are making their own decisions. Much has been written about user generated content, with the rise of sites like TripAdvisor, which is the big player in travel and is built from a consumer position but fundamentally those it is targeting still question whether they can trust it.
But as it’s the only game in town, consumers have no choice. But now Google is recognizing that product peviews are important and is trying to shoe horn this into search (along with all the other clutter that is coming both in the front and back of the search process).
It is partnering in a non-exclusive way with BazaarVoice to provide product reviews to the Google search and AdWord services.
The eTailing group (on behalf of Power Reviews) undertook a survey of 1,000 consumers who spent $250 or more and shopped on line at least four times per year.
Hardly an inspiring pool of source material, but so far it is all I could find on the subject.
In this study, compared to a 2007 piece of research, it is clear that there is an increasing use of product reviews as more people get to use more of the web.
However there are forces that work against this. Amongst the many factors that make the process of shopping harder online is the sheer volume of data and somewhat daunting task of sifting through the information to get a qualitative set of results.
Consumers behavior tends to either rely on the immediate circle of friends and family and then their online social network of contacts.
Or they have a trust in some brands to give them a sense of comfort. It seems that much of this is done to prevent the process of buyers’ remorse.
What we see is that there is a strong sense of distrust of the lack of neutrality of all this.
Some care – but many simply do not. So far no one has stepped up to fill that void. The default seems to be that the Googleplex is the only place to go to find things, driven by the blind belief that Google is indeed doing no evil and will respond to the user in a neutral utilitarian point of view.
As we have seen this is not the case anymore. Nor is Facebook a place of trust as it has blotted the copybook with the apps and Rapleaf scandal.
At least one can use Bing or Google to get a result. But that result is not what I want and in general we are left with a sense of less taste, more filling.
Perhaps I am more jaded than the average consumer, but I believe there is a strong sense of consumer resentment about this.
Too bad there isn’t a consumer Tea Party-type organization that can actually reflect this. But, sadly, we get enough freebies from Google to make that problem go away.
Roman society had an expression that accurately reflects the situation in the online world. Accept the stuff that search does for you because it gives you so much utility.
The Romans called it Panem et Circenses – look that one up on Wikipedia...