Researching Products and Services Online is Fundamentally Broken

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There is a mind blowing stat from a study by Rothstein Tauber that I found on an Internet Retail Website.

“consumers spend an average of 79 days gathering information before making a major purchase.”

This stat is meant to convey the importance of targeting the top of the funnel and the entire sales cycle with your content and marketing efforts.

While that lesson is certainly true I think the world is looking at this information upside down.

I cannot think of a single good reason why it should take me 2-3 months of research before making a major purchase decision. 

I recently leased a car. I easily spent 3 weeks doing at least an hour or two a day of research.

I found articles that were insightful, some that lacked credibility and others that were outright contradictory.

Here is an example of the content clutter destroying the buying research process…

Thats 100 things I have to understand and think about before buying a new car. WHAT?!!!

After a ton of research I finally found the key questions and insights I needed to truly compare apples to apples when evaluating lease options.  It was only 3 questions I needed to ask.

Now I had to choose a dealership. I checked Yelp and Google reviews and I found that the sentiment and reviews were pretty similar across all dealerships. For the most part, people were happy with the dealership until after they made a purchase, at which time they were frustrated with servicing the car at the dealership and other service deficiencies once the dealership made their money.

Bottom Line, Reviews online lack context, and without context they really say nothing of value.

If I don’t have the back story, my mind automatically assumes that all good reviews are people don’t want to damage someones business and all bad reviews are people with an exceptionally unique terrible experience, out to punish and/or destroy that business. In other words, review online are mostly polarized and almost never reflect anything remotely useful to my decision making.

Not very helpful considering I still needed to choose a dealership. So, I went to TrueCar which has prices from local dealerships that they guarantee to honor, but I still had a dealership try to pull the wool over my eyes. I ended up at a different dealership that was transparent and open with me about pricing. All the other dealerships pushed me aggressively to come to the sales floor, but this one place was not pushy at all.

They ended up winning my business. 

They were transparent and seemed to be honest… Yet, when I walked out of the dealership I immediately felt buyers remorse and wondered if I got screwed on the deal. It turns out the reviews were right. They were supposed to put in aftermarket leather right away but it took them 3 weeks to get it done.

Gives a whole new meaning to sign and drive. The moment I signed, they drove away. 

Here is what I don’t understand. It’s 2015. There are over 3 Billion with a B people on the internet. The USA has over an 87% internet penetration rate.

The world is sufficiently connected… So, why is it so damn hard to research and understand major purchases online.

Content marketers might like touting how much time and effort goes into purchase decision research online because that lines their pockets… But why is no one focusing on ways to cut that research time into a manageable chunk of information.

Is it really too much to ask to know exactly what I need to know before making a major or even minor purchase…

…without digging through heaps of trash in Google or reading reviews that have no context whatsoever.

So, perhaps businesses should be out there creating more and more content that is useful throughout the buying cycle of their personas…

or perhaps, “creating a more useful and transparent experience, cutting the research time and pain involved and shortening the buying cycle is the message we should be receiving. “

Maybe we should all take to hear the credo of mobile marketers about mobile devices dominating our lives and sensors doing much of the heavy data collection.

Were in a Mobile-First world. Much of that consumer research is actually taking place on a mobile device.

The problems of too much clutter and useless or unreliable content is exponentially worse on smart phones and mobile devices.

I believe in inbound and content marketing, and as a business, search engines and social users will reward you for solving your prospects informational pain points throughout the research process by providing useful content…

…but solving their pain points doesn’t mean giving them more content and homework they need to think and worry  about… means actually SOLVING THEIR INFORMATIONAL PAIN POINTS!

I, for one, think its time to cut through the clutter and simplify and shorten the buying cycle, not pander to it.

Lets stop pandering to search engines and social sites and focus instead on giving consumers exactly what they need to know to feel confident they aren’t getting screwed.

What do they need to know?

1. Is the salesman earning a commission off me.  (this is fine, but I need a filter to evaluate his sales pitch)

2. How big of a profit is the dealership turning on selling me a car. (For some reason I don’t  believe, “we are losing money on you…” shpiel)

I don’t care if you turn a profit off me. I want service and I’ll gladly pay you for service…But be transparent about your costs and you will earn my trust and business for life.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think many businesses will heed my cry, but all we need is one whistleblower per industry and they will own their industry in my book, forever.

Let’s fix this together. Do you know the insider secrets of an industry that is a high stress purchase?

About David Melamed

David Melamed is the Founder of Tenfold Traffic, a search and content marketing agency with over $50,000,000 of paid search experience and battle tested results in content development, premium content promotion and distribution, Link Profile Analysis, Multinational/Multilingual PPC and SEO, and Direct Response Copywriting.

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