The beauty and the frustration of the internet lies in the fact that it is constantly changing. The rapid influx of new websites, new methods of driving web traffic, and new trends has effectively eliminated the phrase “business as usual” from any understanding of internet exchange.
Certain companies, however, have managed to maintain relatively unchanged business models because their mission statements align with a growing sentiment amongst today’s consumers. Two companies in particular, Angie’s List and Craigslist, have made enormous impacts on the ecommerce front by transferring power, responsibility, and authority from companies to consumers. Below is an analysis of qualities and flaws of these popular sites, though sometimes it is difficult to discern which is which. And so the fascinating dichotomy of the internet continues!
Power to the People
The Craigslist experience can be simple and straightforward as often as it can be bewildering. Users are able to exchange goods and services directly, while Internet retailers are left out of the equation. Consumers have become increasingly weary of company-generated products and advertising, and Craigslist offers a space free of professional retailers. With this presence lacking, users can more freely exercise discretion by negotiating prices, delivery methods, and other details of exchange.
Your Word Against Mine
Angie’s List exercises a similar philosophy of giving power to the consumer by featuring honest reviews of businesses that cannot be altered or hidden by businesses themselves. Companies listed on the site are assigned letter grades based on their customers’ reviews. This evens the playing field for businesses by eliminating the need for marketing and PR strategies, aka strategies that are affordable for some, not all. Instead, Angie’s List is all about work performance, and customers will always be the first to provide an honest opinion in this department.
So what’s the drawback?
Users must pay an annual $39 membership fee to gain full access to the site. What Angie’s List has had trouble proving is that the reviews written by paying members are more trustworthy or reliable than reviews found for free on competitor sites like Yelp. The catch is you won’t know until you sign up.
More Work, More Payoff?
Back to Craigslist, where in the time it took you to read the first half of this article, thousands of new listings were added to any number of the company’s geographically based subdivision sites. The incredible range of locations, services and goods on Craigslist means you can find almost anything on the site. When you find the antique Italian vase you’ve been dreaming about since childhood AND it’s in your neighborhood, Craigslist will seem like a convenient and serendipitous alternative to garage sales, second hand stores, and stuffy storage attics. But the patience required to find a coveted item amongst the hoards of ads is enough to dismay many consumers.
The site’s interface is essentially a sea of links, and searching for something specific can be a daunting task. The most successful Craigslist browsers have faith in fate and a lot of time to kill.
Join, Review, and Buy
Angie’s List is currently developing an integrated ecommerce platform called My Storefront, which aims to streamline the exchange process for its members. This new feature will allow consumers to complete the search for a service provider by paying for services within Angie’s List, rather than being redirected to an outside website.
As valuable as this additional feature seems, is it enough to draw the attention of potential users and compete with other sites where this feature is already incorporated? In response to the shifting value of customer reviews, many of today’s online merchants have added review sections to their sites. Is Angie’s List too late to the party?
We’ll find out soon enough.
Renee Floyd is a prolific writer who has been featured on numerous business and health blogs.