With the breadth of information available through our Internet-connected PC, being an informed consumer seems easier than ever before. Add that to the real-time access to all kinds of data via apps stores and the mobile web on your smartphone, and consumers may actually have too much information to cross reference and research all of their choices. Enter the next new thing in service value being created for consumers - the "Trusted Advisor."
Trusted Advisors can appear in many flavors. They may be the people like you on your social networks who create community ratings for sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp. Or they may actually be businesses sourcing products or recommending offers for you based on data you opt in to provide. From "decision engines" like Billshrink.com to deal of the day mobile apps like AAA discounts to social Commerce sites like woot.com, there is a burgeoning industry of service providers hoping to help consumers convert from impulse shoppers to educated buyers.
But are these services helping consumers to discover and select the right products that optimize price/value? How does a consumer ultimately know in whom they should place their trust - the retailer or the advisor? Advisors that aggregate content and then apply algorithms and customer profile data may provide a useful information filtering service that lets a consumer remove some of the marketing noise from their evaluation process. Trusted Advisor services use a continuous flow of information to support the consumer's inquiry, however, the consumer doesn't always know if the business model that underlies the service offering emphasizes particular inputs from advertisers or business partners.
Free information may be worth what the business or consumer pays for it. To build trust in a brand that it can curate valuable information and make useful recommendations that fit each individual's needs takes time. More importantly, though, it takes relevance. Brands that attempt to provide a Trusted Advisor benefit to consumers cannot assume blind faith in the results they produce. To earn the loyalty that underlies any business model for these types of services, product designers will have to first ensure the consumer can clearly evaluate the utility these kinds of sherpa services provide.