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?


8 thoughts on “Authenticity, millennials and skewing results?

  1. In response to the “Design a site that increases sales, doesn’t necessarily build loyalty?” question:
    A site design that increases sales is a design that has improved the usability of the site and has made the overall experience more pleasant, which could certainly lead to customer loyalty. The majority of visitors want to quickly find what they are looking for once they have landed on your site and the use of proven design techniques can aide in making a site more intuitive and therefore a site a visitor would not mind returning to.

  2. Joni, I am right there with you on the Q scores. It really does feel skewed to me to favor the companies. I just don’t understand why they can’t add another category or perhaps changing the wording around a bit. It definitely needs a “neutral” there. I have to wonder if they make the questions and the options they have that way so they can make the data say whatever they want. Then again, what kind of data collection reputation would they have if no one trusted them?

  3. Maria: Your comment triggered a memory I had totally forgotten until now. Recall my first day on a new beat at the Wall Street Journal some 13 years ago when I found out that J.D. Power and Associates did sponsored research. As a consumer I’d always assumed they were more like Consumer Reports, i.e. neutral…but lo and behold, not. Now it had more credibility than many firms, but…..

  4. I don’t think that the design of a company’s website and its increasing sales are mutually exclusive. For me, being both a Millennial and a web programmer, I am greatly influenced by the look of the site. If I go to a website that has a product that I have been looking for at a great price but their website looks atrocious…I ( most likely ) will not purchase the item from them.

  5. I also don’t think increasing sales and building loyalty are mutually exclusive. I think every brand strives to build both together. I can back up Richard’s comments about looking at a product’s website. A bad website, whether it’s bad visuals, usability, function, speed, etc., all reflect the company. So if I don’t like the website, then I definitely second guess purchasing from it. In my mind, if a company puts so little effort into a website, then I expect them to put that same effort into their customer service and quality. On the flipside of that, you could have a terrible product with a well-designed website that might attract more consumers. I guess the point is that you have to be vigilant in your research when purchasing anything online.

  6. Yes. It would be interesting to compare the Next Generation study to previous cross-generational studies. Stage of life is a huge indicator. For one thing, I watch more television now than I did when I was a 20-something. That doesn’t mean I am swayed to buy everything I see. However, I am influenced. I can probably recall several jingles and tag-lines. As for technology, I deal with it all day at work so I try to turn it off as much as I can. My younger cousin, a Millennial, can’t stop. I tease her all the time.

    I would actually say I am more conservative when it comes to shopping than my cousin. She is definitely loyal to certain brands, regardless of price. On the flip-side, I have more expenses than she does.

    Richard’s comment got me thinking. I guess I agree with his assessment. I think a poor design makes me think it may not be trustworthy or reliable.

    P.S. Do you remember watching commercials and thinking those people looked old? Now those people are me. Scary.

  7. Great post, Joni. I’m curious where you stand now — Would the journalist in your still put all the content? Have you found situations where less information is more? It seems like trusting the company is most important to you.

    • Definitely would put a different hat on as a web designer in deciding how much content to provide on the initial homepage…but I probably would as the client to consider if there was a way to provide MORE information for a customer if they wanted to go looking for it (and I don’t think the odds are great of it being detrimental to the client’s goals). Per my own experience? Totally rings true with the idea that if the cost isn’t high, I don’t need too much info, but if its an investment, I’m one of those customers who will comparison shop for a day or more and I’m more likely to trust the vendor who tells me more…

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