Authenticity, millennials and skewing results?

So are the underlying values for building a successful web site for retail different than building that same company’s brand?

That was the broad question I walked away with after reading  — a treatise on how retail web sites might up their sale rates by tapping the advice of an international consulting firm. Contrary to what journalists like myself want to believe, it suggests that MORE information can be bad because consumers will just read rather than commit to buy. There is an alternative, possibly, that if a company is interested in the long-play than they should provide the information in hope of making an impression on customers who may leave the site but could return to buy exponentially more because they trust the brand? I want to believe the latter. I want to believe providing information is always better. But I’m skeptical. Clearly, the complexity of web design for retail is ripe for mining.

We were taught in our branding class that authenticity was key to building a durable brand. Is superficiality more rewarded in web design? Perhaps in web marketing, the question is more of engineering than existentialism: Design a site that increases sales, doesn’t necessarily build loyalty? Are they mutually exclusive? What do you think?

Maybe the millennials will save us from ourselves. They demand authenticity. Aren’t easily moved by TV (not surprising, they’re on their smartphones more!) and are more loyal to brands, including willing to pay more for something.  Perhaps most heartening for those of us in the communications biz all together: Strong creative is needed to have any hope of reaching them.

I did wish, however, that this paper had drawn more comparisons to the previous cross-generational studies. I found the reference that Gen X’s also had low TV scores 20 years ago intriguing. How much of the generations’ differences are truly unique in the 21st Century and how many are purely dictated by stage of life, disposal income, free time?

The third article, measuring brand affinity, was an interesting peek into consumer research.

And here my journalist hat came out: I found myself surprised by the structure as the qualitative answers on their face felt weighted to positive outcomes. Three out of five of the choices were positive. And I am dubious about defining “good” as a neutral term, as the methodology claims – why not make the categories Favorite, good, neutral, fair, poor? Or the skeptic in me wonders if this is just a way to insure the paying client gets a favorable score, regardless of whether it is legitimate.

On another note, I was surprised by the complexity of the adult questionnaire for the Q score. Giving so many choices for respondents to define a brand (12!) seems very counterintuitive – I would want to see the science behind that before doing the same. Similarly, using numbers for all three categories’ potential responses in the adult questionnaire seems like a bad idea. Why not throw in letters for one of the columns? Did anyone else share my skepticism?