Common Cents-OffConsumers Like Coupons, Not Community Fluff

You've gone to a lot of trouble to place interactive games, online chat and pseudofriendly lifestyle content on your Web site, all to make it feel like a "community." The bad news: Consumers don't really care.

Information Resources Inc. (IRI), the Chicago-based outfit that tracks all sorts of consumer data, recently found that packaged-goods manufacturers are overdelivering - and likely overspending - on Web features that consumers only shrug off.

The study of 7,900 shoppers showed that only 12% want online games and only 27% want lifestyle features. What they really crave are the basics: product information, and an e-mail address and 800 number that they can use to contact the company. People say they'd prefer free samples, coupons and special offers instead of the fake community stuff, but few of the companies actually offer those on their brand Web sites.

After a period of experimentation, it's now time for packaged-goods makers to focus on high-payoff Web site features, says IRI consultant Brian Murphy. Less than one-third (28%) of the companies studied are attempting to calculate the ROI of their Web sites.

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