A case study of a technique used to provide competitive information to help prospective buyers decide between products. By providing this information on their product and the competitions’ products this company stopped many prospective buyers from searching any further leading to increased sales.
Why do customers shop online? The answer is the convenience of easy search and comparison shopping. We know from studies that site user friendliness (aka usability) is more important than price so once we have built a user friendly site, how can we control user behavior to our advantage? Build an information resource which will end their search/research and close the sale!
Keep a couple of things in mind.
Your web page is just as big in your viewer’s eyes as your competitors.
Your product information can be just as clear, your photos just as good.
What is it that people need to make a purchase on the web site (or phone?)
- Credibility and comfort level.
- Need for the product, perceived or not.
- Sufficient information to make a decision
- Consensus or management approval unless they are individuals.
Let us address point 3 “Sufficient information” and indirectly 1 and 4.
Several years ago I was involved in the launch of a complex software tool designed to compete with Lotus, IBM, and several other nationally known brands.
- We knew that the research phase was complex and essential for our prospective clients
- We knew during this search, our pages could easily get lost in the many page views, many links and sophisticated pitches of our competitors.
- We knew that often people would start at Google (or alternatives) and use that as the home base to review other products.
- We had to stop that behavior and become the “home base”.
It was scary, but we believed in our product, its benefits and its competitive position. We understood how people searched and we decided that we needed to build a “competitive matrix”. A competitive matrix is a table showing all the important features, contact information, reviews, price information and links to your site and your competitors.
We believed that as soon as the searchers found this matrix page, it would become the home base for the research. With this information at hand, they could soon honestly tell their managers (or co-decision makers) that they had thoroughly researched the products, (an essential element in B2B decisions).
We needed to appear objective and demonstrate this. The table format and information needed to bear this out and reinforce our integrity and objectivity. One way we did this was to contact the sales manager of each competitor and give them free rein to provide a comment for our matrix. We made this clear on our site to demonstrate our objectivity. Anyone who declined to comment was designated as such with a “declined to comment” statement. This clearly weakened their position in the eyes of the searcher. We agreed (and noted on the site) that we would be happy to modify their statements at any time.
What were the benefits of this approach?
We controlled the landing pages of our searchers. Instead of progressing thru fancy intro pages, they went directly to the less interesting and “brand building” product page which we chose. They had no back button capabilities to look at other pages in the competitors sites. Meanwhile, we were able to clearly demonstrate our competitive benefits from within our site and links. We maintained the back button option. If the competitors failed to offer navigation and product info on their pages, it was not our fault. Big wins for us
The benefit of the “sales funnel” or persuasive architecture that was built into other sites was lost because we controlled their entry points.
We appeared to be the fair arbiters as well as players on an equal footing to our competitors despite the fact that we were often a tiny fraction of their size.
We controlled the “criteria for comparison”. Granted we had to be fair and open or we risked losing the essential credibility BUT there was plenty of room to make ourselves look good with product features we could emphasize.
Our traffic logs showed the ISP’s of who used this page.
Our traffic logs showed that a great many came back again and again and referred others within their companies to look at our page first. What a huge win for a small player like us.
We became the “research home page” and the frequent recipient of back button clicks.
We were at the top of the list on the matrix.
The further they got down the list, the quicker they came back to our site when they left. This was important behavior to note. While it was important to choose a way to “objectively” list the competitors, you can choose from several: price, alpha by product or company, size, and years in the business, etc. If you choose other then alphabetically, you must note how companies were listed to maintain objectivity.
We controlled the list of competitors. Of course objectivity was key but nevertheless we were able to position and control the layout and choose who we wanted. We included a feedback option for people to suggest other competitors. Another Big Win.
So what happened?
We generated a great deal of interest and were strongly convinced by phone calls and results that we had been able to stop their search, deliver the information they needed and advance our position dramatically.
It was a scary approach but, one that exploited our understanding about web behaviors to our advantage.
- We knew the search would take place.
- We knew we had to be seen as “equals” to our competitors.
- We knew that information was key and that we could very easily get lost in the typical search process.
After all, how often do you do your product research; forget where you were or what you saw early in the process. You stop when you have the feeling that you have done your due diligence and find something suitable. Imagine how confident and clear your decision would have been had you had a competitive matrix.
The likelihood of feeling good about the matrix provider, feeling that they had reason to be confident about their product and that they deserved your business is far greater when you control the search. So stop your clients searching, use the back button to advantage, stand up strongly for your product and use the web to your advantage! The web is all about information, be sure you provide it in a way you can control as much as possible.