Trendwatching 2009 09 Transparency Triumph


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Trendwatching 2009 09 Transparency Triumph

  1. 1. is an independent and opinionated consumer trends firm, relying on a global network of hundreds of spotters, working hard to deliver inspiration and pangs of anxiety to business professionals in 120+ countries worldwide. More information at September 2009 | What's still one of the most important consumer trends out there? Transpar- ency. Of prices, of opinions, of standards. So let’s look at what’s new, happening, upcoming and important, including the inevitable countertrend. There’s no hiding ;-) Think 'transparency' is an established, maturing theme? You ain’t seen nothing yet. Sure, we’ve been harping on forever about the many ways consumers can research, compare and review their way to a more powerful position, but every month brings us smart new examples of consumers and brands intent on making opinions, quality standards and prices even more transparent. So, it's time for a fresh look at the latest and greatest in the transparency arena*, where savvy con- sumers (as well as on-trend brands) can score triumph after triumph. We’ll look at how reviews are set for even more spectacular growth, how price comparison is getting much more sophisticated, and how the inner-workings of companies will be exposed in pragmatic new ways. We then end this briefing with a countertrend, OPENLY OPAQUE, that raises the bar even higher. *Please note that this Trend Briefing limits itself to consumers’ desire for finding the best, the cheapest and/or the most ethical, as opposed to enjoying transparency of all information and knowledge, from government (in)action to the boom in personal profiles. Somehow, we think you will find the below lengthy enough as it is ;-) You are reading a PDF version of one of our free monthly Trend Briefings. More at: ! ! ! ! ! 1 / 15
  2. 2. In short, businesses have to understand and accept that con- sumers’ decision making processes, which ultimately come down to whether they will buy from you or from someone else, have truly shifted to a new, powerful peer-to-peer arena. So if that’s the current playing field, let’s look at the latest devel- opments in the booming world of reviews: 1.6 billion online… and now get ready for the next billion, courtesy The fortress of one-way communications from a non-trusted of the mobile web source (aka advertising) is crumbling! While hundreds of millions of consumer reviews are already zip- Some telling findings from the latest twice-yearly Nielsen Global ping around cyberspace, prepare for a deluge of truly biblical Online Consumer Survey of over 25,000 online consumers from proportions. And a deluge of review innovations, too. Some num- 50 countries: bers: "Recommendations by personal acquaintances and opinions • 1.6 billion consumers are now online, and the majority posted by consumers online are the most trusted forms of adver- of them have been online for years. They're skilled bar- tising globally. The Nielsen survey shows that 90% of online con- gain seekers and ‘best of the best’ hunters, they're avid sumers worldwide trust recommendations from people they know, online networkers, and they're opinionated reviewers while 70% trust consumer opinions posted online." and advisors. There are many more research studies, findings, dissertations, • On top of that, many more consumers in emerging and so on that confirm the same fact: reviewing is the new ad- markets are eager to jump into cyberspace with two vertising. This shouldn’t come as a surprise: just as with other thumbs: according to a UN report, there are now more trends, what’s unfolding now is a ‘forever need’ among consum- than four billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide, ers, one that's now being satisfied in a superior and previously unattainable fashion. In this case, the need is for trusted advice two-thirds of which are in developing countries. Even if only a third of those phones get online access in the and recommendations—for feeling in control, for knowing the future, the next billion online users are on the horizon. facts, for avoiding mistakes and disappointments—in order to make that perfect purchase. Which has become even more • And for future contributors and viewers, especially those pressing as choice-overload continues: never before was there so that are born to the web, for whom contributing and much to choose from, in mature consumer societies, and thus sharing is a given, reviewing will be a way of life forever. such a need for reviews. It's a need that is met online by having access to millions of other consumers and their experiences and opinions, from giant review portals to real-time channels such as Twitter. You are reading a PDF version of one of our free monthly Trend Briefings. More at: ! ! ! ! ! 2 / 15
  3. 3. • Bazaarvoice recently signed a deal with UK retailers Debenhams and Asda to include customer reviews on their sites. • Google’s new Rich Snippets program allows the search engine to now display product rating, review count, and actual review text direct in Google search results. In fact, expect this to be the biggest ‘(R)Evolution’: uni- versal search for products, brands, services and any- thing else consumers are interested in will turn up ag- gregated, relevant reviews almost by default, tagged and non-tagged, pulled from review sites (niche and mas- Google Rich Snippets and Netflix: aggregation and syndication sive), from blogs, from Twitter, from Facebook, from galore. YouTube, and so on. The reviewing masses will increasingly be enticed to review (and share): • Let’s not forget about more compelling formats for re- views: a revealing video says more than a 1,000 photos, • Product ratings and reviews provider Bazaarvoice’s and thus the proliferation of videocam phones, including ShoutIT app enables reviewers to have their reviews Apple's new iPhone 3G S which includes video func- effortlessly appear on their Facebook, Digg or Delicious tionality, geo tagging, and direct upload facilities for pages as well, while Netflix has hooked up with Face- YouTube and Mobile, will be yet another push for video- book to allow users' reviews to be shared on their profile reviews to take off. pages. • Members that post a review on Epinions are rewarded with so called Eroyalties credits, which are in turn are based on an ‘Income Share’ program. The Income Share pool is a portion of Epinions' income, and is split among all authors based on how often their reviews were used in making a decision (whether or not the reader actually made a purchase). Reviewers then can redeem their Eroyalties credits in US dollars. Meanwhile, big players in the review arena are aggregating, white labeling and syndicating like crazy, causing existing reviews to pop-up in multiple places. A snapshot: • TripAdvisor, which boasts close to 25 million reviews and opinions on more than 490,000 hotels and attrac- tions, while attracting 25 million+ monthly visitors, earlier this year signed syndication deals with, • Reviews are also making their way to the 'real world': easyJet Holidays and its sister site aforementioned Bazaarvoice now works with UK retail- Meanwhile, travel site Raveable now provides a com- ers Argos and Halfords to feature customer reviews in prehensive view of hotels across the United States by paper catalogs (Argos alone reaches 17 million UK aggregating and summarizing more than 35 million re- households with its catalogs). views of some 55,000 US hotels. • UK based comparison shopping service Shopzilla just teamed up with, a provider of cus- tomer reviews, to add product reviews to its product and price comparison service. You are reading a PDF version of one of our free monthly Trend Briefings. More at: ! ! ! ! ! 3 / 15
  4. 4. Images courtesy of TechCrunch and Mashable. Yes, that’s one gross pic, but hey, anything to get your attention! More ‘real world’ developments (with a virtual twist): expect plenty of augmented reality-meets-reviews examples to pop-up Important side-effect of the above is that the deluge in postings soon. Here are two to get you started: will also unmask, outnumber and thus neutralize fake reviews posted by malicious consumers or desperate brands. Which will • Local review site Yelp boasts the first iPhone app with lead to an even greater trust of recommendations and reviews. In augmented reality. Users can put their iPhone camera in the near future, consider the discussion on whether to trust re- front of a restaurant, with Yelp’s reviews then overlaying views to be over. their real-world views. (Source: Mashable). Meanwhile, GraffitiGeo, a mobile service that allows users to share brief reviews of restaurants, is working on a similar iPhone app. More info at TechCrunch. Scale is one thing. Scope is another. No B2C sector is immune to the review virus. Expect every industry, every sector, every prod- uct to eventually succumb to reviews, Tripadvisor style. Exam- ples: • Health | Vimo, a comparison-shopping site for health care, offers rate-my-doctor and rate-my-dentist func- tionalities. A similar review service is offered by ZocDoc. You are reading a PDF version of one of our free monthly Trend Briefings. More at: ! ! ! ! ! 4 / 15
  5. 5. • Beauty | On members give reviews on everything beauty-related, from makeup and skincare to hair dryers and perfume. The site includes detailed information about each user’s skin tone, hair color, skin type and eye color at the top of the review so that read- ers can gauge how well the advice will fit their own needs. • Law & education | Avvo profiles legal professionals, including their experience, areas of practice, and ratings from clients. Ratemyteachers does the same for teach- ers. Also check out Yollege. • Airports | Sleeping In Airports has over 6,300 reviews of how airports around the world rate for sleeping in public areas. • Tech | Fixya is a popular post-sale tech support site, These days, hotel room reviews are posted from the room, not where 15 million members help each other with product upon return home. support questions on 1 million products. It has now added product recommendations to its website. Deluge and connectivity will lead to real-time reviewing of prod- ucts and services: • Recruitment | Glassdoor aims to provide an insider's look at what it's really like to work at a company, both • First of all, as more people are contributing, the sheer financially and otherwise. The site gathers real-time re- mass of reviews will in effect lead to daily if not hourly views, ratings and salary details about specific jobs in reviews on any topic imaginable. Which means more 28,000+ companies. Also check out Australian LiveSal- timely and accurate information. ary. • Secondly, as universal online access meets netbooks, • Restaurants | Dishola eschews general restaurant re- laptops, and phones, virtually all equipped with (video) views in favor of dish-specific (!) advice and information. cameras and audio capture, we're already seeing an Members can read smart reviews by Dishola editors, increase in on-the-spot reviews, from text to full-blown industry professionals and other members, as well as videos. Remember, someone going through an annoying post reviews and photos of their own favorite dishes. or pleasant experience, but lacking online access, has to postpone his or her review, which often results to not • Printing | provides information on a wide posting at all. range of printers and cartridges; the site currently fea- tures more than 4,500 printers and over 1,950 car- In fact, Twitter has established itself as the real-time* tridges. snapshot of what people are thinking/feeling/ experiencing and yes, reviewing, around the world. Ex- Note: a fun entrepreneurial opportunity is to start a review portal pect numerous services to capitalize on this burgeoning ( that lets consumers quickly find the right ‘global brain'. One example: SkinniPopcorn provides niche review site for their query. Just a page listing the various Twitter feeds of users' real time comments about newly B2C categories, and links to related niche review sites. Should released films and the current US box office top ten, as take you less than a week to get live, and could be a great adver- well as the ten movies that are currently mentioned most tising cash cow ;-) often. * As promised last June, when we highlighted FOR- EVERISM, we will dedicate next month's Trend Briefing to NOWISM, covering all the business opportunities re- lated to the emerging real-time economy. Will land in your inbox or feed early October. You are reading a PDF version of one of our free monthly Trend Briefings. More at: ! ! ! ! ! 5 / 15
  6. 6. now) been reserved for premium Hilton club members who use Hilton's eCheck-in. • Wagaboo's restaurants in Madrid and Barcelona let prospective visitors select the restaurant, date and time they're interested in online, then presenting them with a seating map with available (and suggested) tables. • Still going strong, SeatGuru helps passengers select airplane seating, in-flight amenities and airline informa- • And yes, reading reviews on the spot will become uber- tion based upon the airline and type of aircraft they’re popular too, of course! More on this in 'Price Pandemo- flying. The site now features 25,000+ user comments, nium', below. and offers more than 650 airline seat maps covering 90+ airlines. The service has now also been incorporated into its parent site, Expedia. • TripKick tackles an equally important aspect of travel: hotel rooms. Coverage of each hotel includes detailed information on which rooms to request—which rooms are oversized (rooms ending in 03 and 04, for example), which have great bathrooms or are quieter than others. TripKick also points out which floors are better, and which to avoid. Guests are encouraged to add their own Yet another way reviews can be made more attractive and useful, reviews and upload photos of rooms they've stayed in. and thus more powerful: combine them with MAPMANIA. Check out the following location-based review sites that let you find the BTW, we're planning to do a Trend Briefing on MAPMANIA in the best hotel room, restaurant table, playground or, yes, airline seat. near future, incorporating the latest in augmented reality, so please do stay tuned. • The KaBOOM! Playspace Finder is a user-generated online directory that lets anyone enter, search for and rate play spaces. Users can add photos and comments for each play space, as well as detailed descriptions including available playground equipment or amenities. Some 16,000 play areas across the USA and Canada are now listed on the Google Maps-based site. • Homewoodsuites by Hilton Hotels offers guests the option of picking their hotel room. Guests can view hotel   floor plans and book specific suite types based on their location, photographs and descriptions. Adding a touch of PERKONOMICS, The suite selection tool has (for You are reading a PDF version of one of our free monthly Trend Briefings. More at: ! ! ! ! ! 6 / 15
  7. 7. and/or admire (Twitter followers/following, or Facebook friends) and then turn to their ‘audience’ for advice/ recommendations. • Professionals | Oyster Hotel Reviews employs 13 pro- fessional reporters who independently review hotels, paying for their own stays. Once a review of a particular hotel has been posted online, Oyster invites other travel- ers who've visited the same hotel to add their comments and reviews. The site also recently began requiring con- sumers to use Facebook Connect if they want to rant or rave about a hotel. Says Oyster: "The way we see it, if you’re willing to attach your identity to your commentary, you’re willing to stand behind what you say. No anony- mous mudslinging; no PR propaganda." Expect a host of new ventures to spring up and monetize collabo- rative filtering and profile matching in the next 12 months, most likely by partnering with the Twitters, Facebooks and LinkedIns of this world, who are already profile-driven. One for you? Do you know just whose recommendations and ratings you’re blindly lapping up? Here’s what is probably one of the current reviewosphere’s big- gest hurdles (and thus one of it's biggest opportunities), and no, it's not trust, it's relevance. Who are these people whose reviews determine what you read, where you stay, what you drive, where you eat, what you watch, where you get operated on…? Which is why, for years, we’ve brought up TWINSUMERS: consumers whose lifestyles mirror yours, who think, live, act, consume alike, and whose reviews therefore have real relevance. Basically, the onslaught of recommendations needs some transparency of its own. For those of you who have already worked out and executed a review strategy: please focus on making reviews relevant for your visitors and customers by providing profiles, backgrounds, con- text. A nice win for 2010? Some examples of what’s (slowly) building in this field: Do not let bad reviews go unanswered! Surprisingly, so far the Review (R)Evolution has been pretty much one-way. Quite a few brands still seem to believe that they’ve been granted an eternal ‘grace period’ when it comes to dealing • Profiles | and TripAdvisor do offer trav- with all of the above. While brands are no longer unaware of re- eler profiles, and they will at least give you information views, they (to a large degree) still choose to listen, not talk about the reviewer’s age, gender, travel styles, location, back, trying to ‘learn’ from the for-all-to-see Review (R)Evolution. travel experience, personal circumstances and so on, Which is surprising, to say the least, since a quick and honest but there’s obviously plenty of room for more extensive reply or solution can defuse even the most damaging complaint. profiles, if not collaborative filtering. Parallel to this, ex- pect more people to first ‘collect’ the people they trust You are reading a PDF version of one of our free monthly Trend Briefings. More at: ! ! ! ! ! 7 / 15
  8. 8. In fact, there’s no standing on the sideline when it comes to TRANSPARENCY TRIUMPH, and the least any brand should want or demand is the right of reply: to get their side of the story in front of the mass audiences that now scan reviews. Expect smart companies to increasingly post their apologies and solu- tions, preferably directly alongside reviews from unhappy cus- tomers. And yes, that should include the occasional candid rebut- tal by a company that feels (and can prove) that a particular re- view is unfair or inaccurate. To see the future for Right of Reply, check out: • Tripadvisor’s Management Response feature allows representatives of hotels, restaurants and attractions to respond to reviews written about their properties. • Local business review site Yelp allows business owners to manage their own page with detailed information, and lets them respond privately to reviewers. The latter Replying to angry mobs is the second best solution. is also offered by Bazaarvoice, which allows owners direct contact with posters of negative reviews. May we humbly remind you that bad reviews are not the problem, HomeAway, the vacation rentals marketplace, has an but a symptom? Not listening to (dissatisfied) customers is owner-response feature, too. often at the root of the problem. Consumers don’t post their bad experiences straightaway. Most will notify you or one of your • Swedish Fairshopping allows consumers to post public colleagues first. It’s mismanagement of complaints and con- complaints about companies they have done business flicts that invokes postings. Whether it’s someone at your help- with. The companies mentioned are then given the desk, someone in your stores, or an account manager; there’s chance to reply on the site. Other users can chime in on virtually always an opportunity to settle an issue before it goes the conversation, agreeing or disagreeing with the initial public. And if you really screw up, beat customers to the punch complaint. by being the first to report failures. Let customers know how you fix problems. Eventually, this will free up resources and energy to There’s also a self-organized ‘right of reply’ for B2C brands: al- actively focus on enabling happy customers to post positive re- lowing for reviews on their own site. All they have to do is to ask views. Now that's TRANSPARENCY TRIUMPH ;-) their customers and they're in business. Biggest advantage: a guaranteed opportunity to publicly react to bad reviews that would otherwise pop up in less accessible spots. And favorable reviews will of course bring the benefit of instant endorsements of whatever it is you're hawking. Just one example: American Ap- parel’s on-site reviews. Who knows, one day, well-performing ‘direct brands’ may actu- ally desire and encourage this kind of feedback, which in turn will further add to the deluge. Last but not least, check out services that monitor the mood out there, aggregating online comments, reviews and bits of feed- back from consumers about your products or brands. And yes, here too, Twitter is an amazing example of how easy it has become to do some quick checks on what the verdict is on any kind of new product, service and everything else worth re- viewing by millions of twitterers. Two examples: ScoutsLabs and Twitratr. You have no excuse for not knowing, and you have no excuse for not replying, either ;-) You are reading a PDF version of one of our free monthly Trend Briefings. More at: ! ! ! ! ! 8 / 15
  9. 9. First, like with reviews, when there’s mass, there’s going to be niche. Expect plenty of dedicated, one-category only price comparison sites to up the ante. Fun examples: How low can / should you go? • Liftopia lets ski resorts sell discounted lift tickets online. What else can we say about online price comparison than that full Visitors simply choose dates and regions where they price transparency seems near? Show us one consumer who want to ski, and then scroll through a list of budget- does not spend hours hunting down the lowest fare for her priced lift tickets. Sydney-Perth trip, the best price for that Philips television, the cheapest copy of Murakami’s latest novel? Needless to say that • Medication comparison engine Medtipster finds its us- the dire state of the economy is making consumers flock to price ers the best prices on prescriptions, with the pricing comparison sites in greater numbers than ever before. given for specific pharmacies in one’s neighborhood. So yes, the Shopzillas, Pricegrabbers, Shopping.coms, Kelk- • mySupermarket is a free shopping and comparison oos, Google Product Searches, Bechnas and Roboshoppers website for supermarket shoppers that links the online of this world will instantly find consumers what has become portals of the UK's four main supermarket chains (Tesco, known as the ‘Internet Price’. Next? More niche and more sophis- ASDA, Sainsbury's and Ocado) and compares prices on tication: the fly. Also check out Grocio, which claims 18,000+ registered shoppers (as of August, 2009). •, TrueCar, and PriceHub offer reader-submitted information about what previous buyers paid and tips on how future shoppers can get the best deals by negotiating. • BusJunction combs through discount fares on a dozen of the big bus lines that ply the major routes between Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Bos- ton (as well as further west in hubs like Cleveland, Buf- falo, Chicago). • OurParents is a free eldercare matching service, fo- cused on assisting children with aging parents. The serv- ice offers descriptions, services, photos, quality ratings, price info, etc for over 65,000 care providers and allows consumers to filter search results by location, cost, qual- ity, distance and special requirements. You are reading a PDF version of one of our free monthly Trend Briefings. More at: ! ! ! ! ! 9 / 15
  10. 10. • Treatment Abroad, the leading online medical tourism unique objects of desire and impulse buys may escape the portal, has launched a ratings and reviews system for "feel it - see it - try it offline - then buy it cheaper online" routine. medical tourists to share and rate their experiences of Which in return means more direct sellers feeling compelled to travelling overseas for medical treatment. match the lowest prices found on price comparison sites. For your own brand, you'll have to figure out if that’s going to be a • compares eight large online contact lens race to the bottom, or a clear signal you need to start delivering retailers for the best prices for over 15 of the contact products and experiences that are hard to price, if not priceless… lens brands. does the same, In the meantime, keep an eye on: comparing the prices for 26 brands among 10 online retailers. • Shopsavvy, an Android app, allows the user to scan almost any barcode using the phone’s camera, and it will Next? Niche price comparison meets analysis. While extensive then search over 20,000 online and local retailers to find price advice based on personal profiles, assets, preferences the best price. Once the best deal has been found, users already widespread (just think insurance and mortgages), can either purchase online, or use the phone’s built-in expect to see more services really digging into consumers' usage Google Maps feature to find their way to the store. patterns, then finding the best price. Which means that even impulse buys aren’t ‘safe’ any- Just one example: Validas', which lets consum- more: this may entice even the most buy-ready, real- ers upload their actual cell phone bills, generating a detailed re- world shoppers to postpone their purchase for a few port (based on usage patterns) on what plan (and which carrier) minutes ;-) Shopshavvy won the 2008 Google Android would save them the most money. Developers contest and has been launched in the US, UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic. A version for the iPhone is in the works. • Californian SnapTell says half a million iPhone and An- droid users have downloaded its application (which, unlike Shopsavvy, allows users to photograph a product using cameras in their handsets, and then upload it to the website for reviews, recommendations and best prices), resulting in more than 1.5 million image queries so far. More than one in three buyers click through to an online retailer, earning SnapTell commissions. • SnapTell is owned by, who last month also released its own, free, Android mobile application, which allows users to take photos of an item on their phone, or scan a barcode, and then have Amazon search for the same product online, enabling immediate comparison with the physical-retail price. If the price is right, users can purchase the item securely from their mobile device. Point & know Could the iPhone (and Android, and others) mean the final break- through for on-the-spot price comparison in the ‘real’ world? While mobile price comparison has forever been the promised killer app in a retail world that is still dominated by physical stores, it took an iPhone (read: a mobile device that finally makes it possible to surf the web on the go, without a clunky interface or dial-up speeds that bring back memories of 1995) to unleash this promise. In short, expect consumers to start treating real-world stores as showrooms and try-out centers, while finding the lowest online price via their web-enabled cell phones. Only hard-to-find and You are reading a PDF version of one of our free monthly Trend Briefings. More at: ! ! ! ! ! 10 / 15
  11. 11. The lowest (fuel) price finding you Combine devices that know where you are and what you might be looking for with an alert functionality, and you will end up with the best price finding you. Examples: • The TomTom Fuel Price Service: for a yearly subscrip- tion fee of EUR 14.95, users select whether to list gas   stations by location or price on their device, and can request the lowest gas prices on their route within a user-selected radius. Travelers can also choose which type of gas they would like tracked: regular, mid-grade, premium or diesel. The service is available in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands and France. • Apnoti watches Amazon for price drops. You can use it either by dropping in the Amazon product link and your e-mail address, or by installing a tool bar that adds the option to watch a price to Similar services are offered by ZingSale, Ookong, WishRadar, Price- Drop. More pricing fun: if you’re in a business with volatile, non- transparent and ever-changing pricing, expect price-forecasting • While sites like Liligo, Expedia and Ctrip all provide fare services to hungrily eye your space. A few examples: alerts to help travelers track tickets and hotels that match their preferences and alerts them by email when • Farecast offers airfare predictions from over 75 US de- prices drop, Yapta goes the extra mile: if the price of an parture cities to major domestic destinations, as well as airline ticket drops below what someone has paid, Yapta for 200 international routes. Users can check if fares are will alert them when they are eligible for a refund from increasing or dropping, and are provided with recom- the airline. Since launching its initial airfare tracking serv- mendations on when to buy. The website makes its pre- ice in May 2007, Yapta claims it has alerted over dictions primarily by searching for patterns in ticket 600,000 travelers to more than USD 170 million in poten- prices on airline and travel agent websites and claims a tial savings (an average of USD 306 per Yapta user). 74.5% accuracy. Farecast also offers rate indicators for hotels in 30 destinations. Each of the 5,000 hotels on   the site has its own "Hotel Rate Key" with a chart show- ing what they've charged in the past and what they will (probably) charge over the next 90 days. The site capital- You are reading a PDF version of one of our free monthly Trend Briefings. More at: ! ! ! ! ! 11 / 15
  12. 12. izes on vast amounts of data that have been accumu- lated over the last decade. Farecast is part of Micro- soft's Bing search engine. Expect Google to be all over these kinds of services in the very near future, too… • offers historical prices for trips in 77,000 markets in the US and Canada. It seeks out fares and destinations at a billion combinations per query, while keeping track of 500 airlines serving more than 270,000 markets around the globe. Those consumers who care, will now find out Corporate transparency doesn’t stop at product reviews or price comparison. In fact, it’s going to be crucial for companies to un- derstand that because individuals/consumers are opening up in many ways, if not becoming ‘transparent’, especially online, they will expect companies to be more transparent, too (read: to become more human). And while we will save for another Trend Briefing the many ways in which corporations can now be exposed whenever their be- havior is dismal, if not downright despicable, we do want to briefly point out how transparency of everything from production processes to ingredients, to labor conditions, will increasingly influence performance and pricing reviews. The ‘whole’ picture will matter to those consumers who, when looking for the best of the best, take into account not just price or superior quality, but eco, health, social and ethical concerns, too. Some spottings: You are reading a PDF version of one of our free monthly Trend Briefings. More at: ! ! ! ! ! 12 / 15
  13. 13. • GoodGuide is an information clearinghouse for green consumers, integrating hundreds of databases that evaluate the life cycles of over 70,000 products, such as food, personal care, cleaning products and toys. An iPhone application is available, too. • Project Label strives to produce people-powered social nutrition labels. Think food nutrition labels, but instead of showing the health impact, labels will show a company's social and environmental impact. • In July 2009, Walmart announced plans to develop a For every trend, there's a counter trend. Not every trend applies worldwide sustainable product index during a meeting to all consumers and what's more, to those it does apply, it won’t with 1,500 of its suppliers, associates and sustainability apply all the time. So while TRANSPARENCY TRIUMPH will be a leaders. The index will establish a single source of data reality for the majority of brands, we’ll also witness a number of for evaluating the sustainability of products. Eventually, brands that will go for a less-than-transparent approach to busi- the goal is to translate the product information in the ness, and will get away with hiding, with not being open, with not index into a simple rating for consumers about the sus- having mass conversations with customers. Does this contradict tainability of a product. everything laid out above? No. In the end, plenty of consumers will accept (if not welcome) an opaque brand, if that brand consistently delivers and surprises: • A lot of people like to keep things simple. Sometimes they just want to get it over with instead of having to review and compare and research for hours on end. For many, time is still the new currency. • For some products and services, surprise / excitement / the unexpected is part of the charm. Researching and reviewing something to death can make a purchase or experience too safe. • Fatburgr puts together the nutritional facts about a vari- • Related, too much information can make one indecisive, ety of fast-food restaurants and chains. Some 25 restau- as there’s now an unfavorable review or potential disad- rants are currently listed on Fatburgr—including McDon- vantage to be found for everything. And as long as those ald's, Subway and Chili's. For each of them the site lists bad reviews are from reviewers whose background is the calories, fat, carbs and fiber content for each menu unknown, relying on a trustmark instead may offer peace item. All data is available on the iPhone, too. of mind. • Last but not least, some brands manage to offer unique- ness (both by creating something truly special, and by You are reading a PDF version of one of our free monthly Trend Briefings. More at: ! ! ! ! ! 13 / 15
  14. 14. acting as a curators), which is then less prone to stan- dard reviews / comparisons. Apple is an example of an opaque brand, especially for those Apple customers who just want to be dazzled, entertained and want to belong. So are brands such as Singapore Airlines, Method, Four Seasons, IKEA and Virgin Atlantic: they need less researching and reviewing, as existing and potential customers know, expect and ultimately trust they’re going to get the best of the best, if not something unique. Pleasant side effect: unique offerings also greatly reduce if not eliminate price-sensitivity. In the end, this is about being triumphant in the business arena In business, it doesn’t get scarier and more exciting than TRANSPARENCY TRIUMPH and OPENLY OPAQUE, as both trends at their core are about inspiring brands to deliver some- thing superior, something that can withstand scrutiny and compe- tition, something that gets consumers raving, preferably to other consumers. Which in a nutshell is what business is all about, no? It does mean that in a transparent world, for both brands and consumers, settling for anything that's sub-par becomes a choice, not an accident. And yet, it’s still early days for TRANS- PARENCY TRIUMPH. Changes in behavior and in technology all So if you wish to go OPENLY OPAQUE, make sure you’re the point towards an even more transparent marketplace in the near best, hard to duplicate, curated, trusted, reliable and so on. And future, which in turn is taking cues from a more transparent soci- yes, any other kind of opaqueness means you’re toast ;-) ety. So ditch ‘discussions’ on whether this will impact your business or not, and open up. Some tips: • Come up with a map, a list, an overview showing who is reviewing you, and where, and what percentage of your sales and revenues is already influenced by them. Sites! Top reviewers! Channels! How to figure that out? Well... ask your customers how they found you, or why they returned, who they listened to, what site they used to find the lowest price. This is field work, but worth it. • Actively respond to bad reviews. Either on your own site, or through syndication. If consumers are going to post about their experiences anyway, there's definitely merit in presenting these reviews (all of them!) on your own site. At least this will make exercising your right of reply easier. You are reading a PDF version of one of our free monthly Trend Briefings. More at: ! ! ! ! ! 14 / 15
  15. 15. • Promote positive reviews by enabling satisfied custom- ers to share their experiences. • And that's just a few practical things you can do: strate- gically, you will have to figure out how to become a transparent, human brand, or an OPENLY OPAQUE, human brand. Which is obviously of a different magni- tude than dealing with a deluge of reviews, or fierce price comparison: it's ultimately about character, about finding your voice, about your behavior as a brand that, if in tune with the current zeitgeist of 'openness' and 'generosity', automatically turns transparency into a benefit instead of a threat. Oh well, you get the picture. No rest for the wicked, eh? Good luck scoring a few TRANSPAR- ENCY TRIUMPHS (or going OPENLY OPAQUE) yourself. You are reading a PDF version of one of our free monthly Trend Briefings. More at: ! ! ! ! ! 15 / 15