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Responding to Your Comments: Human Emotions, Comparison Engines

Published: July 12, 2007

Author: David Rodnitzky

Do B2B Buyers Have Basic Human Emotions?

Regarding my post on the four basic human emotions to sell anything, EricaAdapt wrote “Do you think that there are similar messaging principles in B2B marketing? IMO the end-purchaser is often a company, so the more “consumery” motivations like greed and vanity may not apply.

Erica, at the end of the day, the person doing the B2B buying is still a human (unless, perhaps, some clever company has hired androids to do their procurement?) So I could still make an argument for using each of the four emotions I mentioned (fear, greed, vanity, exclusivity) in a B2B ad.

To prove my point, I’ve made up four examples around a B2B purchase about which I know absolutely nothing – database software:

If the Fortune 500 Use
Our Database, Shouldn’t You?

Get a Free 3 Hour Analysis of
Your Database Needs Now.

Learn About the Only 3rd Party
Database Used by the CIA!

Having the Fastest Database in Town
Isn’t Just Cool, It’s Good Business.

Do you believe me now?

Supreme Court and Comparison Shopping Engines

Two good comments on my post about how a recent Supreme Court ruling could negatively impact comparison shopping engines.

First, an anonymous reader wrote “This ruling will embolden manufacturers to kill Internet retailers. The only hope for Internet retailers is to partner with new market entrants or far-sighted manufacturers who will support them. Internet retailers, in many industries, have a bad name because brick and mortar retailers put pressure on the manufacturers not to deal with them. This pressure is hard to prove in court, so Internet retailers will be negatively impacted by this ruling.”

And Blowski, perhaps somewhat contradictorily, wrote “In a globalised world, if manufacturers enforce price in one market, people will just buy from the next cheapest market. Hence, this ruling might produce legislation explicitly banning MAP policies, but is most likely to just be ignored by retailers and manufacturers alike, since they both benefit from the current arrangement, except in a few cases.”

My response to both comments is “it depends.” I think the key issue is the degree to which manufacturers enjoy monopoly or near-monopoly status for the product they sell. For example, if Apple Computers decided to strictly impose minimum prices on manufacturers, or even exclude Internet retailers from selling iMacs online, it’s difficult to envision a substitute product that could replace the iMac.

True, you could buy another computer, but Mac aficionados don’t just want any computer, they want a Mac, along with all the various accessories that come with it. So if a manufacturer or set of manufacturers are truly the only sellers of their product, any court ruling that enables them to strictly control price or distribution could in fact have a negative impact on retailers, and by association, comparison shopping engines.

For many markets, however, Blowski is right, attempts to ‘control’ the market can be easily circumvented by consumers. For example, the outrageous prices the music industry foisted upon consumers for years created demand for an alternative market – namely free illegal downloads – from which the music ‘price fixers’ have never fully recovered.

Finally, to the point about whether the increased strength of manufacturers will end up hurting Internet retailers. I think this will again be a category-specific case. In general, I don’t think there is an overall animus against online retailers. Perhaps seven or eight years ago there was, but today most manufacturers understand that online retail is a rapidly growing section that they ignore at their own peril.

As such, some manufacturers would no doubt like to impose a little bit more order unto their online retailers, but I suspect that most are doing everything they can to attract as many (quality) online retailers that they can.

Comparison Engines and Bad Business

Finally, in my post on how many comparison shopping engines are doing a poor job of serving the needs of their customers, an anonymous reader wrote: “Thank God you wrote this article. It is about time someone is talking about this. I manage the CSE relationships at a major online / offline retailer. My CSEs rarely deliver a worthwhile return. We frequently lose money listing our products on these sites. They are the most time consuming relationships to manage and account managers are rarely helpful coming up with solutions or being flexible to the situation.”

I’m glad to see that I am not alone in thinking that the tools and business practices of some of the CSEs need some, well, retooling. I’ve had a few people suggest that I go one step further and actually name the two CSEs that with which I’ve had particularly bad experiences. If I thought that it would wake them from their slumber, I’d be inclined to do so, but based on my interactions with them over the past many months, I think – as Horace Grant of the Chicago Bulls once said – the chances are slim and none, and Slim just walked out the door.

Thanks to everyone for the comments. It’s nice to know that my posts don’t disappear into the great cyberspace void . . .

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