Getting “The Best:” Does Your Site Help Customers Make Decisions?


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Take a look at various marketing campaigns today and you’ll notice a trend: companies aren’t just focused on meeting a need, but many are narrowing their offerings in order to argue that there is a single best product – and they’re the ones who make it.

Take, for example, the razor industry. While Gillette insists in their slogan that they’re “the best a man can get,” startups like Supply and Bevel have both debuted single-blade safety razors as their sole product. After all, when something is the best, you don’t need other options.

There’s a growing market for this kind of focus as a way of combating decision fatigue, but for those companies that continue to provide a range of options, helping customers make the best decision should be a central element of their business model. In a crowded market, buyers are overwhelmed. Smart design can guide them through the process.

The Star Standard

Perhaps the most common way that ecommerce sites guide customers through the decision-making process is by ranking items on a star scale. It’s a simple quantification, one that’s also used for books, restaurants, and movies.

Just how reliable a star system is, though, varies between websites, so each company needs to approach such rating systems with proper consideration. For example, Amazon weights their star reviews based on factors like whether a purchase can be verified or whether the reviewer leaves primarily negative reviews. This is easy for a company as large as Amazon, which has thousands of reviews for popular products, but creating a meaningful star ranking on a small site is much more difficult.

It’s not easy for big companies like Amazon, either though. Research shows that the average rating of an item on Amazon improves over time. Maybe it’s because lower quality products fall off the site, leaving only better goods, or maybe it’s what researchers refer to as the influence of order – good reviews push other reviews up. This doesn’t nullify the usefulness of stars, but it suggests this may not be the best approach to helping customers make decisions.

Research Over Ranking

Another way that businesses might help customers make decisions about products is by paring back the information available to them. Rather than overwhelming customers with hundreds of reviews, businesses can provide customers with a simple explanation of benefits and product descriptions. At Siding & Windows Group, customers can choose from an array of windows, but because they serve different purposes, the brand guides customers by highlighting the strengths and functions of each window type. This kind of simple outline is more objective than the star ranking and supports buyers while allowing them to stay in control.

Show Don’t Tell

A fundamental principle of storytelling, show don’t tell is also the rule of the digital era. Everyone is drawn to visual information, whether that’s photographs or video. Make use of videos to highlight products, show how they look and work, and give customers a chance to familiarize themselves with products as though they were viewing it in store. As ecommerce continues to gain market share, video will become more important to the decision-making process.

However you choose to guide customers through the decision-making process, your goal should be to make the experience as frictionless as possible and to help them feel confident about their purchase choices. Despite what chronic negative reviewers might lead one to believe, customers genuinely want to have a good experience with your products. Matching your guidance to customers’ needs can transform how they feel about your business.

Larry Alton
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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