Giving consumers the ability to instantly access an endless supply of information digitally is putting pressure on all intermediary trades (the travel agent, the real estate agent etc.). Assuming that the consumer takes the time to search the Internet for information, the perceived added value of an intermediary has significantly declined.
Before, if you wanted to take a trip or buy a car, you relied on the expertise, experience and information provided by a travel agent who, in turn, invested a reasonable amount of time on your request. Eventually the agent would come back to you with a cheap vacation or a good price for a car, and thus, become the hero. Today power has changed hands twofold: not only do we have access to the same or similar information as the professional through the Internet, but we also have the luxury of taking as much time as we’d like – hours, days or months – to research. What travel agent has the time to try 20 different combinations on several sites to find a slightly cheaper flight through an improbable transfer? What car salesperson has the same keen acumen of the market segment as the consumer who is about to spend thousands of dollars?
The paradox here isn’t an easy one to solve: the consumer obviously won’t think highly of the salesperson who knows less about their problem than they do, while the salesperson (on average) is supposedly more knowledgeable about all the products that they are trying to sell. Finally, for both parties, time is money, except when it doesn’t mean the same thing for both: one wins by doing everything possible to make a sale while the other wins by taking the time to research and find the best deal.
Smart intermediaries have acknowledged this problem and are moving away from traditional sales techniques. To succeed in today’s marketplace, it is essential to find new ways to offer added value to consumers. For example, Best Buy created @twelpforce, a customer response service staffed with expert sales associates from across the country.
So what does this all mean? Simply put, large and small distributors from all industries, real estate agents and many B2B players will have to reinvent their raison d’être and the way they do business – and fast. Otherwise, their clients will simply do it themselves.
Read more from Jean Pascal at A Nos Vies Numériques.