In the UK, comparison sites are an important part of the consumer landscape. We’ve watched their increasing influence over the six years of our online shopping surveys in financial services, travel and energy.
This increase is not surprising given the quick and useful snapshot they provide. However, comparison sites are rarely an environment where shoppers make their final decisions. Very few people click through to purchase directly from a comparison site. Instead, they seem to use the data as input into their purchase decisions, clicking back to Google to carry on shopping rather than onwards to buy.
So why is this?
Instead of just comparing easy to rank criteria (interest rates say, in the example of current accounts) more complex and nuanced, such as aspects of brand experience, become important. For example, ‘What will it be like to be a customer?’ or ‘What’s the bank’s position on fees and charges? Comparison sites don’t provide this level of insight.
Instead we’ve seen an increasing number of users exploring review sites. Like comparison sites they provide a useful starting point for further investigation, but they also act as a reference point later on in the decision-making process. Review sites such as Ciao! provide an independent view of the market; opinions and satisfaction ratings are based on real-life experiences, and the site is becoming increasingly populated with user reviews. This compelling content is more powerful than any content that a provider can publish on its own site. Moneysavingexpert is also very influential, it editorialises, whittling choice down to a few recommended options.
As review content continues to grow in volume and visibility, we believe shoppers will continually evaluate aspects of customer service and satisfaction when comparing products online. Overall customer experience will become an increasingly important factor in decision-making – not just price.
Currently, comparison sites are popular with consumers but as an early reference point in the shopping process. We predict a move towards the consolidation of comparison content, consumer review and ratings sites, and expert review sites. Sites that start to combine all three types of content (as moneysupermarket is starting to do) are likely to become the natural centre of gravity for shoppers throughout their purchase decision process. This could potentially create a lot more revenue for this new breed of site, which will focus on helping consumers make brand decisions rather than just product and price comparisons.
Author: Jemma Green