Google’s Devolution Effect

Interesting article in InformationWeek about how the overwhelming amount of information available online, but often not what the customer is asking for, is creating an even more skeptical market. What marketers need to provide are strong brands that deliver what the customer wants.

Creating an environment of free information where data flows easily among people is the ultimate promise of the Internet. We share data and information with one another, and, as a result, we increase what we can do as a culture, and what we can do as consumers. But actually, in many cases, this isn’t happening.

Internet search engines like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) are supposed to enable companies to compete for consumers’ attention and provide “value” without actually having a recognizable brand. The opposite is actually taking place. There is so much information available on the Web — the end result is a whole lot of useless data. This has led to a “devolution” effect that is actually diminishing the ability of consumers to find useful product information online.

To get a better sense of what’s happening, let’s explore the online car buying experience. What car buyers want online is to be able to find the best deal with an upfront price. In effect, they are saying, “Computer, buy me a car!”

You may never have heard of FreeCarQuotes.net or CarPrices.com, but if you search on Google for new car prices, these sites will pop up in the results. Google is supposed to enable innovators to compete in the car market. The search engine should create an open platform that drives the online marketplace and, hopefully, improves our experience in buying a car.

What’s happening instead is that brands like FreeCarQuotes aren’t adding value to the consumer; they’re just exploiting the search process by giving the consumer a different way to buy a car, which Google already enables. So instead of creating alignment between what the consumers want and what the car dealers want to offer, some brands are merely creating another clog in the wheel, further frustrating the car buyer’s experience.

Here’s the problem: Car buyers ask for a price online, but they don’t get a price. The car dealers want buyers; instead they get a gobbledygook of customer leads. In a strange way, Google is not enabling innovation when it comes to finding relevant information; it actually stops the natural progress of creativity that the Internet is capable of providing — hence the devolution effect. Google forces companies to develop monetization strategies that end up cheating the user and stopping innovation.

From an online consumer’s perspective, the ultimate goal of the Internet is to transform the buying experience to a transparent, predictable, and pleasurable one. To make that happen, new innovative business models need to be created that bypass the Google paradigm. For example, there should be a transition from pay-per-lead to a pay-per-sale model. This would help create a marketplace where value is created in the alignment between the consumer and the seller.

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