Comparison shopping is a basic consumer behavior. We all do it — and frequently. Try to think about the last time you made a significant purchase without shopping around. Try to think about the last time you made a significant purchase without doing most of that shopping around online, in the comfort of your home. (Or your desk at work. You know, when you’re on a break or lunch, not when you’re supposed to be working.)
Did you find it helpful and useful when a site made it easy for you to compare features, benefits, specs, prices, whatever? When it was all organized into a chart or some sort of selection tool? When you could choose among a variety of brands and see what your options were without having to click all over the internet?
Retailers, travel booking sites, Amazon, and other multi-brand online environments are masters at providing this kind of consumer-friendly content to help people make better decisions.
But what about individual brands providing such comparison content themselves? Most tend to shy away, for a variety of reasons (e.g., legal fears, not wanting to draw attention to other brands, not really having much differentiation, etc.), but some dive in head first and take on the competition.
The insurance company, Progressive, has practically built its entire identity around the comparison shopping they will do on your behalf, both showing you their rates and the rates of their competitors. They even admit that they may not always be the lowest price (but will hope to win your business in other ways, in case you are not a price shopper).
Chevy Silverado has been taking on Ford F-150 in ads for a few years now as well, calling out differences that they hope will sway customers.
Even before the widespread use of the internet, research showed that people respond to competitive comparison advertising.
But in the B2B space, taking on the competition directly is rare. Most prefer to talk about new features, short-lived innovations, or intangibles that will vary depending on your usage of the equipment or service.
And many argue that the process for choosing a large capital investment (like construction equipment) is different than shopping for a pickup truck or auto insurance or a camera or a hotel room or any other consumer good that you can very easily find comparison data or sites for. Or, they may argue that purchases for businesses aren’t the same as everyday consumer purchases.
That may be true. The process could be different, but people are people. They want to compare things and they want to do it easily. And they often reward the people who provide them with helpful information. Helpful content enables them to solve their problem and get to a decision.
It’s almost an unstoppable tide that has mostly taken humans out of the selling side of the equation and into the purchase process for consumer goods. I don’t need a salesperson to help me understand differences among products or to understand all my options.
Yet, B2B companies still cling to the notion that their stretched-thin sales teams are critical to every sale, and that they alone have the keys to the sale. Most people really just want to know what makes your product/service different or better than a competitor as well as how much it costs. If you can provide that information, you’ve gone a long way to educating your prospective customer and spurring them to give you a call. Helping them on their decision journey by providing the content they demand is ultimately a benefit to you.
Why shy away from doing competitive comparisons? Why avoid making it easier to select a product from you?
Give the people what they want. And they may reward you for it.