New Magazine to Help Consumers ShopSmart

Discussion
May 15, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


A new magazine is undoubtedly going to make some manufacturers and the retailers who sell their products less than happy. That is unless, of course, it gives them glowing reviews.


Consumer Reports plans to launch the publication, ShopSmart, this summer. It will be written and designed to provide readers (primarily younger women) with a quick assessment of popular products – which ones are worth buying and which are best left on the salesroom floor or store shelves.


According to The Associated Press, mockups of the new magazine it previewed “have a breezier look than Consumer Reports, with punchier colors and graphics and shorter, easy-to-read items.”


As with Consumer Reports, ShopSmart will not accept any advertising. This is a key advantage for readers of the publication, according to Lisa Lee Freeman, the editor of the magazine.


“You can trust our advice because we have no agenda,” she said. “The other magazines have advertisers they need to please.”


Ms. Freeman is aware that there are many in the business community who will not appreciate ShopSmart’s coverage. “We’re going to blow up a lot of myths about shopping. A lot of people think Benjamin Moore is the best paint, but our tests have not found that to be true. A lot of people think Sub-Zero fridges are the hottest thing, but our surveys have shown they’re not the most reliable.”


Moderator’s Comment: Does ShopSmart have the potential to alter how many consumers decide which products to purchase? How should manufacturers and the
retailers that sell their products address negative reviews in ShopSmart?

George Anderson – Moderator

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13 Comments on "New Magazine to Help Consumers ShopSmart"


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David Zahn
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

Sure it will impact sales when a “respected and seemingly unbiased advocate for the consumer” makes a recommendation. Assuming that there is sufficient distribution of the publication (electronic, paper or other) so that it can be accessed by the potential readers, it is a definite vehicle that consumers will use.

As to what to do when confronted with a negative review – leverage it by addressing what is being pointed out and spotlighting that you are listening to your consumer. (If it is not a product related deficiency, then the task may take on a different tone.)

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
14 years 9 months ago
The last time I looked, this was still the Information Age. Who knows if this magazine will alter a significant portion of shopping behavior in any given consumer segment. Consumer Reports absolutely has been and still is an important source of trusted information used by many to assess investment level purchases. So the odds are, this new magazine has a strong shot at being influential. What should retailers and manufacturers do with poor reviews? Make better products? Seems straightforward to me. Maybe I’m missing something. If this magazine proves influential, retailers will begin asking what the ShopSmart rating is. If not, it will go away. If a negative review is followed by sales performance drop off…the retailer will not carry the product, and the manufacturer is going to be paying for markdowns. From a purely Machiavellian point of view, if the ShopSmart methodology of testing product performance or benefit delivery is valid, and CR’s methods have proven pretty valid, then it would probably make sense to know what these are going to be in advance… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

How about this for an alternative in the RetailWire survey? Improve the product or service so that it scores better in ShopSmart next time. The people who read Consumer Reports love it. Their loyalty is exceptional. What other magazine you know has an endowment in nine figures, much of which is money given by people through their estate planning? Manufacturers and service providers should recognize Consumers Union as a low cost resource that provides a clear product and service improvement roadmap. Many firms pay big bucks to get similar info to the data Consumers Union publishes in their magazine(s) and web site. It’s always interesting to see the corporate reaction to bad reviews in Consumer Reports. Dumb firms attempt a rebuttal or a lawsuit. Well-run firms use the criticism constructively.

Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
14 years 9 months ago

Consumer Reports has always had an impact on the buying habits of consumers. Their magazine has always been an aid and an answer to “Let the Buyer Beware.” For manufacturers, it is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it will point out and reconfirm what is hot and in vogue. This is important to many people who need to have the “chic product.” On the other hand, the new publication will point out what products might not be worth the “gotta have” label. Thus ShopSmart has the potential to kill or desizzle a hot must have. All in all, this is a plus for the consumer, for the manufacturer…learn to live up to the hype.

Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
Guest
Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
14 years 9 months ago

I think it is a great idea! This group tends to be both lead user and early adopter types. And with marketing moving from media driven to consumer driven – this idea really hits in the middle and is like a mass word of mouth (WOM) campaign. No one has time anymore! I think this is a fresh approach to marketing and believe it will fly. I also think that companies need to be responsive and be sure and take note of what the consumers will be saying about their products in the new magazine

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
14 years 9 months ago
Consumer Reports has a good following and this new format should appeal to younger shoppers. Having a trusted source of information to use in making decisions about new products and services is appreciated by consumers, and this should expand the reach of Consumer Reports. Enabling consumers to make their own decisions about all the choices available in today’s marketplace is important as the choices are sometimes overwhelming. Technology changes quickly and advice is often needed to explain it. This target group of consumers wants quick, easily accessible information online as well as in a magazine format. Consumer Reports magazine online currently allows consumers who subscribe to research issues easily at any time and ShopSmart will provide this same benefit. Retailers and manufacturers know how their products are rated in CR now and often use it as a selling tool. If a product or company is not rated well, the choice is to do nothing or to decide if the analysis can help them improve the product or service in the long run. Asking customers to… Read more »
Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

I believe it will have an impact. Its reputation will garner trial and the scope and content will determine repeat purchasers. I assume that it will be available in an online format as well, as a viable information search engine.

Regarding the impact on poor performing products; my colleagues have addressed this – “make them better.” If not, this new magazine, if successful, will give new meaning to “negative word of mouth.”

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

I have wondered for a while what ever happened to the Consumer Reports kiosks that were due to appear within select Target stores. Did that pilot get scrapped? In any case, ShopSmart sounds like a great way for Consumer Reports to increase its relevance to a desirable demographic. In my firm’s 2006 trend report, we hold that “vetting” via print magazines and e-zines will become more prevalent as several generations of consumers sort through the millions of product and service options available to them. Consumer Reports is tremendously influential with investigative shoppers pondering high-ticket items. Retailers and e-tailers that offer their own online rating systems for products increase their credibility while accelerating decision-making for consumers seeking instant gratification.

Jerry Tutunjian
Guest
Jerry Tutunjian
14 years 9 months ago

In recent years we have witnessed a boom in shopping magazines — also known as magalogues — wall-to-wall products with almost no editorial. The Consumer Report’s new magazine could temper the trend by providing a more balanced evaluation of the products. By providing more objective information, it can provide a credible balance to the shop till you drop frenzy.

Shaun Bossons
Guest
Shaun Bossons
14 years 9 months ago

I agree with the majority of comments. Consumer Reports is well respected and I’m certain will influence its readers in relation to product purchase. It also forces additional pressure on retailers to train staff more comprehensively. As many customers walk into stores “armed” with information in relation to the product they want to purchase, it’s no longer possible to get by with limited product knowledge.

As with all negative reviews, the manufacturer simply has to invest money on the basis of this free R&D and ensure that the next version or product incorporates this feedback. Many companies will arrange workshops or user groups to gain this kind of feedback for product development. It’s the ones that see this as a positive instead of a negative that will improve and gain competitive edge.

Anything that makes purchasing decisions easier has to be a good thing. Retailers and Manufacturers simply have to become more proactive and less reactive to these demands.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

Don and Mark beat me to it. The obvious reaction to bad reviews – assuming that the criteria make sense and the reviewers are sensible – is to improve the product, not try and spin your way out of it or start slinging mud at the messengers.

Mark Burr
Guest
14 years 9 months ago
This publication will likely be respected, read, influential, and indeed biased while claiming it’s not. While this sounds quite contrary to the rest of the comments, it’s simply logical. It’s based on opinion. Just consider one of the definitions offered by Webster’s — “A belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof: ‘The world is not run by thought, nor by imagination, but by opinion’ (Elizabeth Drew).” It’s a publication that is fed by its readers and made up of its readers experiences and opinions. That’s not necessarily a bad thing on its own, but it is what it is. Consider another couple of definitions of bias from Webster’s: “A preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment. An unfair act or policy stemming from prejudice.” When bias and prejudice is developed over time it tends to remain. Thus keeping favored products on top and others on the bottom regardless of experience. It’s evaluators and and it’s readers/survey contributors are not without them. It’s impossible. While I… Read more »
John Lansdale
Guest
John Lansdale
14 years 9 months ago

I’m assuming the PR saavy readers of RetailWire know the connection between the Pew Foundation and SUNOCO, and that Pew has “donated” many millions of dollars to Consumers Union, Consumer’s Reports parent. The Benjamin Moore paint “expose” needs to be considered in connection with SUNOCO Chemicals and a division that makes: “Acetone is used to make acrylic sheet, printing inks, paints and varnishes.”

What should offended manufacturers (and consumers) do? Expose Consumers Reports and the Pew foundation!

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