Lisa Merriam

Consumr: A Yelp For Consumer Goods—No Help

Advertising Age reports the launch today of Consumr, a new social media ratings site. It’s meant to be Yelp-meets-Foursquare to rate consumer packaged goods like Cheerios and Tide. This is a service without a need.

Consumr is working with publisher Rodale to import Yelp-style product reviews for some 50,000 products you can find on grocery store, drug store, and mass merchandiser shelves. Also, like Foursquare, consumers can “check in” with brands they like and earn badges, called “flair.” With enough “flair,” participants can earn the distinction, for example, of being named a “flavor fiend,” exclusive for connoisseurs of Chobani yogurt. Wow! We’ve written about pointless social media activity before (i.e. <a title=”Ziploc and Facebook” href=”” target=”_blank”>people taking the time out of their busy lives to “like” Ziploc bag on Facebook</a>), but building a business around pointless social media activity seems a bit much.

Sites like Yelp work because the businesses, services, and products they review are relative high stakes. Here are the five key high stakes consumer motivations that make review sites like Yelp work:

1)      Expense:  You might look at car reviews because buying a car is a high stakes financial investment.

2)      Longevity: Using the car example again, you are buying a product with a long life—the high stakes are you’ll own it and use the product for years and will have to live with the decision, good or bad.

3)      Time Consuming: You might turn to Yelp to find a plumber, because of the high stakes involved in taking the time and effort to search for a reputable service provider.

4)      Pain: Again, using the plumber example, making the wrong choice could wreak havoc in your home and to your bank account. The high stakes of choosing the wrong dentist or leg wax service could also be extremely painful.

5)      Information Scarcity: Choosing a restaurant in a new town is a gamble without services like Yelp. The high stakes are if you choose the wrong place to eat, your evening is ruined.

The problem with a consumer goods rating site like Consumr, is that these high stakes motivations are totally missing. Buy the wrong yogurt and you waste a few dollars. It takes little effort to return to the store and buy another brand. A yogurt mistake just doesn’t have major implications. Furthermore, most people already know what yogurt they like. They don’t need to invest time in doing research. And how many people in our over-scheduled world are going to carve out time to earn “flair” so they can be known as a yogurt connoisseur  on some random Web site?  Those people are probably already too busy friending Ziploc bags on Facebook.