Impact of third party websites on consumers’ journey and purchase decisions

Impact of third party websites on consumers’ journey and purchase decisions

For any brand targeting their prospects, it is important to understand how their brand is found or rather, how their potential customers search for brands within their industry. In several of our research studies it was found that consumers rely heavily on third party and aggregator sites when making a brand choice within an industry.

Our research studies found that even though most consumers have a brand in mind before they begin their research, most prefer to use a search engine when researching products or services to then take them through to brand or aggregator sites.preferred brand search journey

So, how can you use search to better your chance of being a preferred brand within an industry?

  1. Aim to meet the broader needs of consumers by tailoring the search creative to the search keywords. Consider paid search for keywords where third party sites are getting featured snippet listings to ensure your brand stays in the mindset.
  2. Tailor search ad creative to the search keyword entered like Budget Direct and Australian Super.
  3. Endeavor to attain a high position on search engines. As seen in the heat map below, most clicks are for the top listings.

best super fund search results compare car insurance search results

search results heat map

Why are consumers going from search through to aggregator sites?

  1. The ease of comparing options and seeing a range of companies in one place are the main reasons consumers want to use an aggregator site.
  2. Almost half of consumers incorrectly think that all companies are shown on aggregator sites and they’ll get the best deals there. This is a risk for brands, if you are not present on the aggregator site – you may lose a chance to join the consumers’ consideration set.

why consumers compare brands

When looking at specific industries, the graphs below show the impact that aggregator sites have on final preferences when it comes to consumers choosing a preferred brand. For example in superannuation, overall 20% of consumers preferred AustralianSuper. However, when we just look at those who visited Canstar as part of their research, 30% of those consumers went on to prefer AustralianSuper.

Interestingly, when we look at energy the two biggest players, AGL and Origin, get a far lower final preference rate from those who used an aggregator site.

Final preference superannuation

final preference home insurance

final preference car insurance

final preference energy

Whilst we acknowledge that aggregator sites are not always the preferred strategy for some brands, there is no doubt that third party sites such as search and aggregators have an impact on which brands consumers ultimately choose as their preferred provider, and there is ample opportunity for brands to take advantage of the popularity of third party websites and increase the likelihood of being chosen as a final preference.

To summarise our findings from our research studies, here are a few key insights and opportunities for brands:

INSIGHTSOPPORTUNITIES
During the consumers' discovery journey, third party sites often gain the most visits- Ensure your brand has a presence on third party sites relevant to your industry
Third party sites are attracting visits through search engine results pages (SERPs)- Tailor search ad creative to key words to ensure more relevance against the third party offering
- Consider paid search for some specific targeted search terms to ensure your brand stays top of mind
Consumer behaviour and display of information on third party sites will affect how competitive your product looks against other brands- Consider tailored products for promotion on third party sites
- Look at ways to gain more exposure on third party sites
Many consumers arriving at your website will already have completed a lot of research at a third party site - they will not want to 'start again'- Offer multiple pathways to products based on the different stages of decision making

To learn more on what you, as a brand can do, see what we revealed during our webinar on this topic or contact us today:

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Is neglecting the importance of 3rd party websites hurting your market share?

In two different research studies conducted by Global Reviews for the energy and superannuation industries (in Q1 2018 and Q3 2018 respectively), it was found that:

Even though consumers had an initial brand preference in mind, they often ended up going with a completely different brand when making a purchase decision:

So what is it that happens between these two preference stages that has consumers changing their mind?

Our research studies found that:

Consumers within both industries tend to search for brands on comparison and research sites just as much as on the brand’s website itself.

Energy

 Superannuation

The major reasons for consumers turning to third party websites are:

  1. The ease of comparing different brand options on one platform.
  2. The comprehensive visibility of various options by each brand.
  3. The ability to get the best possible benefit from what is being offered.

By using aggregator and research sites, consumers are being exposed to more brands and offers on one platform that makes the use search and aggregator sites far more lucrative.

Another factor that is impacting the change of brand preference is how well brands are meeting the wants and needs of consumers.

Within the energy industry it was found that:

  • Discounts and incentives, were a major driver for final brand preference within the Energy industry.

This revelation can easily be linked to the result from our research study which revealed AGL was voted as the #1 preferred energy brand. At the time of conducting the research study, AGL was found to have significantly increased their advertising spend and refocused on promoting discounts and offers​ on every platform.

Many of their campaigns highlighted discounts and also offered bonuses such as cashback, Flybuys and Amazon Echo.

Similarly, our research study found that when it came to superannuation brands:

  • Reputation, trust and familiarity are most important to consumers when they shortlist brands as their initial preference.
  • However, investment results and low fees gain importance later in the journey – potentially as they learn more during their research.

This could be a major reason for Australian Super’s increasingly high performance.

According to consumers, Australian Super’s product looked the most attractive to them when using Canstar, owing to their low cost.

          Most use the comparison tool at Canstar where Australian Super shows a significantly lower “Annual Cost”

Since majority of consumers tend to research on brands through aggregator websites, it becomes important for brands within industries like superannuation and energy, to understand :

  • How their brand can be perceived to be more appealing on research and aggregator sites?
  • Which factors are responsible for making their brands lose out in the final brand preference race among its consumers?
  • How are aggregator sites using search to attract people to visit them instead of brand sites?

Through our research studies within these different industries, it is clear that focusing on tiny details can help brands unlock big results. Once brands know that there exists an opportunity to leverage a platform, they need to dig deep to understand the factors that can contribute to their brand’s success.

In this case it would be realising the pull that third party websites have on a consumers’ final preference and leveraging that to their brand’s advantage.

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The power of aggregators in energy

power of aggregator

In the most recent consumer survey published by the Irish Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), it was revealed that the number of electricity customers who have switched suppliers has increased 5% each year since 2014. The rise in switching suppliers is a key indicator of increased retail competition and is potentially making way for a new kind of marketing in the energy sector focused on consumers’ desire to hunt down the best deals rather than relying on previous experience or trust in a brand.

Recent Global Reviews studies have seen evidence of this across the Irish energy market with an increased use of aggregator sites coupled with a drop in choosing a provider based on trust. In Q4 2017, 47% of consumers were using aggregator sites as part of their research process, and this has since jumped up to 61% in the Q2 2018 study. Benefiting the most from this rise is Switcher.ie which went from 30% of consumers visiting them in Q4 2017 up to 49% in Q2 2018.

After consumers conducted their research online, we asked them what they thought about the experience. Overall most consumers found the process good/easy. More specifically, 32% called out their use of an aggregator and how easy it made comparing providers with some suggesting that they had not previously considered changing providers or what other deals/offers are available and through the process of researching and discovering sites such as Switcher.ie and Bonkers.ie will consider switching in the future.

Consumers felt the experience was easy when using aggregators to research energy

The use of aggregators is impacting which brands consumers prefer

Irrespective of whether consumers use an aggregator or not, Energia and Bord Gais hold their place as #1 and #2 preferred brands at both the shortlist and final preference stages. However, Energia enjoys quite an increase in consumer preferences amongst those who used an aggregator. Overall they were finally preferred by 25% of consumers, but were preferred by 33% by those who used an aggregator.

It is not just the bigger players who are benefiting from an increase in aggregator activity. Newcomer, Just Energy, was shortlisted by 19% of all consumers, but was considered by an impressive 29% of aggregator users bringing them in line with Electric Ireland who was preferred by 39% of all consumers only to see that number drop to 30% amongst those who used an aggregator.

Brands shortlisted Just Energy was shortlisted by more people who used aggregatorsFinal brand preferenceEnergia preferred brand by people who used aggregators

To better understand why there is a shift in brand preferences amongst those who used aggregator sites, we looked at the reasons why consumers prefer one brand over another.

Having the best energy plan and being a reputable brand were both selected by 30% of all consumers as reasons for selecting a brand, however, it is a different story for those who used an aggregator. Having the best energy plan was selected by 36% while being a reputable brand dropped down to 26%. Being a current customer, previous use and trust in the company were also selected by fewer people when an aggregator site was used.

Reason for selecting a brand

Final preference all consumers vs used aggregators

Has the increased use of aggregators when researching energy providers caused the drop in trust or has the drop in trust prompted the uplift in aggregator use? Either way, energy providers obviously need to be turning their attention to aggregators if they want to be considered by consumers.

It should be noted that Irish energy providers are not alone in this apparent drop in trust amongst consumers. The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) recently reported that only 39% of Australians trust their energy provider, down from 50% in 2017. This indicates that this is a global problem for the industry, not just a domestic one. It could, therefore, be beneficial for the energy industry to look towards other industries for ideas on how they can improve the general perception of the industry.

Check out our recent webinar covering the dwindling perception of the energy sector in Australia:

Global Reviews is currently running researching into the digital maturity of brands across the energy sector to better understand what the future holds for the industry as well as what consumers really want from their provider. Contact us to learn more about how energy providers are performing locally and internationally.

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