We have just completed an interesting bit of user research for a client looking at a financial service. The client was building a new site and wanted to check out the competition to see what learning they could gain.
What was notable was that most of the websites emphasised a particular benefit – speed of application – whereas the research clearly showed this was not a major factor for users. They compared online with the offline application process and so even a slow online service was acceptable.
What mattered to users was a range of other issues, which the competitor sites did not address, an important one being supplier credibility. As it was a young market, where the supplier brands were unknown and they all had a limited track record, appearing credible was difficult. It was also a market where users were suspicious of the suppliers. This meant the absence of any information users wanted reinforced their suspicions – “Oh they are trying to rip me off.”
The clear conclusion was that to gain credibility, and be successful, total honesty about the offer was required. Hiding any information, including any unpalatable information, was counterproductive – better to be open and honest upfront.
Prior to doing the research the client had assumed that the emphasis of the competitor websites on one particular benefit was correct – the research clearly showed this was wrong. So as well as surfacing the correct user needs the research showed (and this is not a one-off finding) that you can’t assume your competitors have got it right.