One result of the online revolution has been the proliferation of the amateur expert. No longer do shoppers feel beholden to the expertise of a paid professional for information about goods and services they can now often research for free online.
One area in which this can best be seen is travel and tourism, especially with the rise of the internet-savvy traveller and the subsequent demise of the local shopping strip travel agent.
On Monday, behavioural economist and regular SmartCompany blogger Bri Williams looked at the elements of travel booking website Booking.com that make online travel planning not only easy but also addictive:
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My heart began to race. It was the last one and I knew there were four other interested buyers. No time to muck around, I better go in for the kill. Where’s my credit card?
Williams dissects what makes Booking.com such a compelling accommodation booking site and how some of its features could be adapted to online offerings in other sectors.
Can VB regain its lost legion of fans?
On Tuesday, our blogger on all matters brand-related, Michel Hogan, examined what happens when a brand reneges (at least in the eyes of its loyal customers) on one of its core promises: In this case, the capacity of VB to get you pissed quicker than the average Aussie beer:
For many years, VB was famous as the “big, strong beer” for a “hard-earned thirst”. A tagline that resonated with core customers who saw the switch to 4.6 as breaking the promise that was at the heart of the sentiment.
VB lovers were recently given reason to drink and rejoice, when CUB finally bowed to the chorus of boozy boos and restored the alcoholic pride of the famed green label beer by lifting its alcohol content back to 4.9%.
Hogan says the decision to cut the alcohol content might have made short-term bottom line sense, but asks at what cost in terms of lost sales and marketshare:
But what I do know to be true is this: When you break a promise seen to be fundamental to your organisation or your product there are always consequences, and they are nearly always negative.
Of course, VB could always just do the right thing by us all and bring back the classic John Meillon-voiced ads of yesteryear.
Getting down to the grey of the matter
Katharina Kuehn joined our team of bloggers recently and has contributed some fresh insights to the way shoppers think.
A neuromarketing expert, Kuehn digs deep into the squidgy grey matter to fish out pearls of wisdom on how businesses, especially retailers, can better tailor their offerings to the psychological whims and fancies of customers.
On Wednesday, she delved into the five basic human behaviours that shape many of our choices as consumers. One of her points was about the “power of social proof”:
Therefore you should not only incorporate ranking/rating and commentary functions, but also place them on an appropriate, prominent spot on the website that will provide the user with the necessary reassurance from others.
It’s a practical point that resonates with what Bri Williams was saying about the way Booking.com hooks and reels in its audience.
Another one of our newer bloggers, Richard Parker, takes us on a trip down the typographic memory lane, by looking at what role visual design, but particularly fonts, plays in our commercial culture.
Living up to his billing as SmartCompany’s “Online Anthropologist”, in his blog on Wednesday Parker championed the preservation work of the Fontly app and laments the loss of much of our commercial visual culture to decay and the march of time:
Trawling around Bondi’s old Jewish neighbourhoods, wandering along The Corso in Manly or the Italian district around Stanley Street, you get little sense of the vibrant communities that lived there even 50 years ago. Maybe Fontly can help with that.
Parker’s piece is a reminder that the visual aesthetic of business is a big part of our popular culture (Warhol, anyone).