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Next Generation Intermediaries

Posted on: Friday 24th of January 2014

One of the biggest unmet consumer needs in society today is ‘decision support’.

Every day, every individual – whether customer, consumer or citizen – makes multiple decisions about many complex things: managing our money, managing our home, our heath, career, leisure activities and so on. Few of us are experts in any of these things. So we find ourselves muddling along, making do, procrastinating, being frustrated by a lack of information or understanding of the options, getting anxious about making the wrong decisions, and so on.

Enter the new market for decision support services – one of the key drivers of the Personal Information Economy. Decision support services help people gather, access and use the information they need to make better decisions about how to achieve their goals and what inputs (including products and services) they need to help them along the way.

They deploy a variety of different sources and forms of information to do so including expert advice, the accumulated wisdom of other people who have had similar experiences, Open Data about the performance of organisations, general marketplace data about the prices, features and performance of goods and services. They also need the input of personal data about who I am, what my circumstances are, what my goals and preferences are, and so on.

A maturing market

Doing this well, to create services that individuals find really useful and easy to use, is the core challenge of a new industry in the making.

In 2013 Consumer Futures, the statutory body representing consumer interests in the regulated industries, commissioned Ctrl-Shift to research developments in this market.  They’ve now published the results of our research, a detailed 57 page document looking at trends in the market along with a fascinating commentary of their own. Both are free.

Our central conclusion is that the market is heading towards what we’ve called ‘Next Generation Intermediaries’. NGIs address the drawbacks of current services and add new layers of user value.

You can see our summary of the key conclusions here:

  • There is massive pent-up consumer demand for decision support services.
  • But would be decision-support services, including price comparison sites, need to address a range of issues around service delivery and trust if they are to realise this potential. This is the impetus towards the ‘next generation’ services we talk about in our research.
  • The decision-support opportunity is not confined to intermediaries or price comparison. It’s also a strategic opportunity for supplier brands, who need to offer a much broader array of information services for their customers if they are to meet the full range of customer needs.