Not long ago, a major focus of marketers was on brand—brand loyalty, brand positioning, the “brand promise.” Numerous books were written on the subject—each claiming to be the “brand bible” for communicating effectively to target markets.
We would argue that brand loyalty and the importance of brand, in general, is diminishing. According to McKinsey Research only 13% of customers are “loyalists” who do not shop around.
Sure, there are Apple aficionados who will never buy a Windows PC. There are folks who continue to drive the same brand of car for decades. And there are businesses with brand preferences due to corporate policy or hardware and software compatibility challenges. However, with the ubiquity of online shopping and buying, brand-based selection is falling, time and again, by the wayside.
Why is this?
When seeking a new product—especially a product with which a buyer has had little previous experience—buyers most often rely on the opinions of family and friends, or complete strangers. In fact, in one study by Signpost, they found that 90% of people consult online reviews when making purchase decisions. With the anonymity afforded by the Internet, purchasers of a product can be completely frank about their opinions and experiences with a product. As a result, buyers frequently trust those opinions more than corporate advertising or “brand communications.”
Not only is UGC an influential factor, but so are third-party reviews. How frequently do you make a major product purchase without consulting Consumer Reports, Edmunds, CNET, or the like? Buyers are relying more and more on the expert evaluations of third-party reviewers for three main reasons: 1) they can be accessed from our desk or mobile phone; and 2) these folks do this for a living and are experts; and 3) it speeds our research and decision processes.
What is also common is for buyers to be surprised by what they read. According to the same McKinsey Research study, nearly 60% of customers switched brands once they began “shopping around.”
Ability to Compare Products
Now that consumers and business buyers can easily shop around and compare products—on price, features, and form factor—at the click of a button, they are not restricted by brand. Online users can find the product that most closely meets their needs—whether the purchase transaction occurs online or in-store. Again, this may mean that they consider or purchase a brand that was not originally top of mind. However, after validating their purchase through user and third-party reviews, this previously unknown brand or product may indeed end up the winner!
What Can You Do?
As a manufacturer or distributor, the most impactful thing that you can do is portray your individual products in the best possible light. If you are no longer able to attract customers based solely on your brand, then you need your products to be able to speak for themselves and tell their own unique stories. This requires compelling, well-crafted product descriptions, accurate and interesting imagery, and insightful product testimonials and reviews. Let inRiver and our extensive PRIME Partner Community help!
Kathryn Zwack, Sr. Content Marketing Manager, inRiver