In-house experts or online peer review – what kind of expertise do your customers want to see?

Sep 07, 2016

Increasingly, advice and expertise is being delivered through entirely digital or completely personal methods. Noting this polarity in approaches, GDR Innovation Consultant Will Seymour asks, what kind of expertise do your customers want to see?

willLet me throw three completely different examples of expertise from our digital platform at you:

SuperValu flagship


The Evocative Menu

Now then: did any of these resonate with you, either as a consumer or as a professional? I ask because as a shopper I love the idea of all three of them; and all three of them take a completely different approach to expertise.


The first is incredibly personal. SuperValu is championing its in-house experts and is really encouraging people to approach them and ask them questions. As soon as you go anywhere near the counter, you’ll see huge billboards letting you know which big smiley face is the expert on cakes, who you should ask about meat, and who would love to chat about bread. Don’t Google it, they’re saying; let’s start a conversation.


On the other side of the coin, there’s TokyWoky. They know that a lot of the time – if you’re anything like me that is – there’s absolutely no way you’re going to take what the brand says about its products at face value. Does every one of the cameras you’re selling have five stars? Do all of your hotel rooms have great views? Is your newly launched snack healthy? Well I’m sorry, but if it’s just a brand telling me this then there’s simply no way I’m going to believe it. Instead, TokyWoky recognises that the collective wisdom of the crowd carries far more weight. I’m often on Amazon solely to fact-check the reviews on another site. TokyWoky is now importing public opinion directly onto brands’ product pages because it’s a better form of expertise, and it means people don’t have to leave the site to access it.

And finally, there’s something a little different. The Evocative Menu from the Little Red Door bar in Paris asks you to put a huge amount of trust in its bartenders’ expertise. It has hidden the ingredients list of its cocktail menu and invites patrons to choose drinks based on artistic representations of how they will make them feel. If you don’t know exactly what you want and you trust that the pictures are a fair reflection of the cocktails on offer, then you can put your faith in the person mixing the ingredients; if you want to be sure it’s to your taste, you can pull out a tab to find out more info about recipe and price. They want to encourage experimentation, and to do that they need to reassure people into submitting to the experts, even if that actually means withholding information from the customer.

The evocative menu at Paris' Red Door bar

The evocative menu at Paris’ Red Door bar

So what should we learn from these three different approaches?

  1. Expertise needs to be elevated if it’s going to be taken seriously – because there’s always someone who knows better just a quick Google away.
  2. Expertise needs to be delivered in a way that makes perfect sense in the context of your customers’ journeys – sometimes that means making expertise more approachable, and sometimes it means submitting to the higher authority of the crowd.

People are different, and each person is different every day – let them choose exactly how much trust to invest in you.


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