In the information age, the Internet is a powerful tool to increase brand awareness and market share when utilized effectively. Not only is it cost-effective in reaching millions, but it also lays out more information than any conventional advertisement. But the Internet is also a double-edged sword. Because of the information freedom, just one customer’s dissatisfaction can lead to a snowball effect that reduces the brand’s strength, and therefore, their sales. This is what Direct Line currently faces. Because of the emergence of informative comparison sites, their sales have declined, causing them to protest and pull out of these sites.
However, it is not recommended for them to do so because it diminishes their presence and their avenues to be competitive. Background: Some of the sites that help users in their choice of services provided by insurance companies include Moneysupermarket. com, Confused. com and Gocompare. com. Because of several disputes against their “commercial” instead of “public service” orientation, let us look at the effectiveness of these sites in actually helping the public decide on the services they wish to avail of.
The primary categories are ease of use, service provision and brand building capabilities. Observations: Moneysupermarket. com seems to be an idiot-proof way of looking for what you want exactly as their options are already laid out from the beginning. The instructions and the processes are also clear-cut. Also, in one page, you can already see the links to get a quote, to ask help from an expert and to see customer reviews about each and every company that is laid out without seeming cluttered. In terms of usage, Moneysupermarket.
com would have no problems attracting customers to their site. In terms of service provision, getting quotes, buying directly from them and asking their expert are perhaps three of the most important services they have. In getting quotes, however, I am having a difficulty with the occupation query since I can’t enter the job title and business sector that is required even if I put student or unemployed in the occupation page. Their in-house expert seems to reply quickly and satisfactorily enough to the queries posted to him, which is a good thing for the company.
Also, forums and Guides ensure that the company levels the playing field among companies. Buying directly, should be a cinch, I suppose, if it is no longer necessary to re-enter the customers’ personal details. In terms of brand-building, there is very little information given to the customer with the company information only about a paragraph long and no personalized advertising is allowed for them other than possible banners on the side of the site. Confused. com has immediately noticeable links that directly take you to their registration page.
This is a bit of a problem especially when people want to find out about the site first. The link to a little bit more information is in the tab above, which isn’t exactly obvious and doesn’t exactly provide additional data. In service provision, entering information for registration is simple however, the website lacks in its services to help people decide. There isn’t much else aside from quotes and the company does not build up any brands. The only additional help they have are news articles relating to the money market and guides to help people decide from the requested quotes they receive.
As for Gocompare. com, the website’s layout is very simple and the information they instantly provide are concise but very helpful. Registration is simple. Overall, the site is idiot proof, which is very helpful for online insurance finders. As an added service, Gocompare. com has a “special 5 star rating system” which ensures that the companies’ quotes are exactly what the customer ordered, guaranteeing a more informed choice for the customer. The company however, lack customer reviews and expert advice which some people need for additional information that is tailor-fit to their needs.
The only brand support they have are overviews and summaries of the companies they are affiliated with; not even a banner ad to showcase some of the companies who want to advertise to have greater exposure on their site. Recommendation: The three factors of reach, richness and affiliation are three things that Direct Line should take into consideration in their decision to join Moneysupermarket. com. In terms of reach, Direct Line limits their company in terms of brand awareness because many people search in comparison sites to arrive at an informed choice.
With richness, comparison sites only give out a quote without or with limited information about promotions and other data about the company. This prompts users to either research more on the company giving them more exposure or just relying on the retrieved quotes without finding out more about the company. In affiliation, by not joining comparison sites, Direct Line has effectively reduced the number of links that can direct people on their site and reduced their reach and influence. With just all these, it seems as if Direct Line should not have backed off from comparison sites because it limits brand awareness.
As we can see, they could even improve their services by being competitive in the larger market unless they want to be exclusive in a specific niche and keep their market small. Conclusion: As stated in the case, comparison sites like Moneysupermarket. com, have a wider reach of audience and receive high traffic in their sites daily. This high hit rate in their sites is one of the reasons why companies have joined in the bandwagon. This serves as an avenue for them to be listed, known and to promote their companies.
These sites also become marketing tools for them: to know how they fare against their competitors. This way, they can change their prices according to the market’s demands more accurately. Without Direct Line’s presence in these sites, their pricing might be lagging in competitiveness and their promotional activity will decline. Their branding as a no-middleman site will be kept, but might their other brand values might be drowned out because of their lack of presence. Consumers might also read the back out as a move to avoid to be compared.