Friday, March 18, 2011

COD: Tecca and the New Way to Sell

Thanks to ad:tech for publishing this first.

Big box retail has brought consumer benefits, but there have also been costs. No, I am not going to get all Mary Harris “Mother” Jones on you, though if you asked me to lunch I certainly could. Rather, I am going to come at this from a different perspective: How difficult it can be to make a good decision on purchases, particularly electronic purchases when you're standing in a warehouse-sized store and the electronics clerk is outside having a smoke.

Because let’s face it, if you go to a big electronics retailer, the “help” you get is pretty spotty. All the happy well informed employee TV ads don’t make up for the time when you have $2000 in your pocket for some washer dryer set, and the employee (when you find one) only knows which is the LG and which the Vizio. I can read logos, what I want is some insight on the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Tecca is a relatively new website designed to create a community expressly for sharing opinions about electronics. Best Buy funded it through its Fuse Capital venture. The site has massive amounts of information on electronics, from product specifications, to news, to reviews from multiple sources, to UGC reviews. Here's the intro flick:

Tecca also incorporates extensive pricing information from Best Buy (natch) and a multitude of other retailers. Listings arrange prices in ascending order, so the cheapest retailer wins top billing. Now, Best Buy is the national electronics big box left standing so naturally they win their share of these arrangements. But the site does not always list Best Buy first.

You use Tecca through iPhone, Android, or iPad apps, or online. But obviously, this is primarily a mobile play because that’s where most people are deciding what to choose.

I did see Kmart on a pricing listing once, but even by typing in eight models that I pulled off either Target and/or Wal-Mart sites, I never got either company in the price comparison results. I don’t know whether those two retailers aren’t participating by their choice or by Tecca’s. Or if indeed this was a fluke of the database. But given that Target and Wal-Mart have more limited selections, they wouldn’t end up in most searches anyway.

Why should you care about this if you aren’t in the electronics biz? I think the emergence of Tecca reflects a new reality in the way business needs to act in order to make a sale. In a world where consumers don’t or cannot trust retailers to provide unbiased perspective on products, they need resources that they can consult that are credible. I don’t doubt that having reviews available on product pages is beneficial, but if you’re the suspicious sort, as am I, there is often the sense that a richer story is available in an editorially driven community.

So for the rest of this, I am going to assume that Tecca and Best Buy understand that an effort to systematically exclude a competitor would quickly be discerned, and that the traffic would disappear. I was impressed by both the breadth and depth of info available on the site, and the free flowing community discussions. There are other shopping and electronics recommendation communities out there, including many NOT funded by retailers, but Tecca really does offer a strong content platform.

When I buy electronics, I usually print out Consumer Reports reviews. And then I take them into a store and find that all the model numbers have changed. So having a community that includes items currently available has benefits.

Assuming Tecca IS offering a level playing field for other terrestrial retailers, having this sort of resource offsite offers a powerful way to help consumers make decisions. When you are Best Buy, your biggest competitor may be indecision.

I am not for a moment suggesting that there aren’t other places or other, possibly better content destinations out there. But having access to Tecca in iPhone and Android apps makes it beyond easy to use. Assuming they aren’t Best Warping the data, it’ll be very interesting to see how it does.

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