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Insights

The path to purchase is independent; brands should embrace this

21 April, 2015 - Source: Animl

Brands are increasingly considering the customer experience from advice to purchase, and how to make this journey cohesive. But the rise of branded advice might not be the best solution. Perhaps we should look to independents to provide advice and focus on product innovation? 

Advice is a well-known and often-used marketing tool. Take Currys PC World’s latest work that aims to set the brand as the go-to retailer for advice and expertise. Their strap-line ‘we start with you’ moves them into the ‘what can we do for you’ realm. It’s a strategy that illustrates the rise of savvy consumers who seek opinions before purchase. McKinsey refers to this as a “thirst” for impartial, comprehensive, informative comparative information about the pros and cons of different products and services. Advice matters and brands are using it. 

 

The thought is that information about a purchase will lead to a purchase. But it’s never that straightforward. Google’s ‘Customer Journey to Online Purchase’ tool, with its many industries and channels shows how complicated the path has become. And that’s just looking at online. With more ‘touch points’ than ever before, the customer experience from advice to purchase is complex and unpredictable. And then there’s the lack of trust in branded advice. A study last year revealed that only 27% of UK consumers trust content from brands. Where does brand advice sit in this journey? Are we just adding further complexity? 

 

To make the journey more cohesive, how about we try moving away from branded advice and opening up space for independents? It would be a brave retailer that had copies of ‘Which?’ magazine by their ‘own brand’ products let alone competing names. The huge growth of independent bloggers such as tech reviewer Marques Brownlee (or MKBHD to his followers) is testament to the growing trust invested in independent advice. Brands could embrace this; getting closer to independents is certainly one possible way to make the experience from advice to purchase more cohesive. 

 

This move does place more pressure on product development. And certainly requires a more fearless approach. But this pressure can also drive innovation and with it business survival and growth. Take our work for Canon to develop a cloud management system that automatically sends photos online where you can organise, share and access them from anywhere. It’s an innovation that sets Canon apart from its competitors. And provides an example of the kind of innovation that could happen when companies open their doors to independent reviews and advice. 

 

Driving innovation transforms the question of which brand to buy (e.g. Nikon, Canon, Panasonic) to which brand product to buy (e.g. Canon SLR, Canon PowerShot, Compact System Cameras). Providing a cohesive customer experience from advice to purchase could spark this innovation. Perhaps brands should take the plunge and embrace the independents, it seems consumers have. 

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