Are You Confusing Your Customers?

Last Updated Aug 21, 2007 7:31 PM EDT

Recent news on the HD/Blu-ray DVD next-gen war highlights the umbrella issue of new technology causing customer confusion. For the most part, the Sony/Phillips backed Blu-ray DVD has been prevailing (Blockbuster recently decided to release on Blu-ray only and Target opted to sell only Blu-ray systems.) But since Toshiba's HD system is cheaper, which may attract consumers, Paramount studios will release their DVDs solely on the HD format from now on. Rumor has it HD DVD shelled out $150 million for Paramount's support. Whatever the case may be, one thing is certain: customers still have to choose which technology to invest in without any idea if their systems will soon by obsolete.

Although your company may not be in on the next-gen DVD battle, if you deal with any type of technology, you still have to grapple with customer confusion. Forrester Custom Research conducted a study to gage consumers' attitudes toward electronic brands and found that:

  • Over half of consumers who rate themselves as "extremely confused" said they had delayed the purchase of a new technology product by more than a year since they first considered it.
  • 20 percent of those consumers delayed their purchase because they were confused by it, and 25 percent bought the item even though they were still confused.
HDTV seems to be on the right track when it comes to dispelling customer confusion. This past winter, the company started a series of events called the HDTV Expo intended to educate consumers on new television technology. Founder and co-publisher of HDTV Magazine, Dale Cripps, said:
"These are the first events of their kind dedicated to comprehensive consumer education about HDTV, compatible products and the total switch to all digital TV broadcasting (by law) in February 2009...Three HDTV Expo's are being planned to coincide with the 2006 holiday selling season, and there will be others held in up to 50 television markets in 2007 and 2008."
Don't worry. You don't have to plan an expo to give customers the info on your products. Inspire Consulting offers some ideas for educating consumers:
  1. Make your marketing materials educational. List details of what you sell. How and why was it conceived? How is it made? How does it work? Why is it better, faster, smoother, quieter, etc? What makes it better value than a competing product or service? Educate your customer so that even if they don't buy, they've still learned something from reading your material.
  2. Use your "stay in touch" process to educate customers. Make your newsletters and mailings truly educational by reinforcing details about your product and how using it makes life easier or more enjoyable.
  3. Allow customers "backstage". Show them the way you select your raw materials, tell them why you choose one production method over another, demonstrate the quality inherent in your workmanship, and explain how each and every minute detail contributes to the vastly superior product or service you are able to offer. You may even want to offer tours of your factory, workshop or office.
(Confusing Product Image by cudmore)