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Do online shoppers still care about brands?

Conventional wisdom says that shoppers do not care about brands anymore. Retailers lament as to how brand loyalty is dead–that customers just search for products now instead of coming to their websites. Where once, shoppers cared about Sears, Macy’s, or dozens of other names, now they don’t care where they buy from. To some extent, they are right, but they are drawing the wrong conclusion. It isn’t that brands don’t matter anymore. It’s that what people are looking for from their brands have changed.

Retailers need to think about what built their brands. In large measure, it was reliability and convenience. Consumers could rely on products sold in those big retail chains. Their buyers knew quality and they stood behind those products with money-back guarantees. Having so much selection in one place was very convenient.

English: Registered Trade Mark logo
Registered Trade Mark logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those big retail stores made it easy to get what you want. Those retailers provided a very helpful service. In doing so, they built the power of their brand names. Consumers counted on those brand names to solve their problems with products reliably and conveniently.

And that worked very well, right up to when the Internet became just as reliable and more convenient. At first, people wondered whether the selection was as well-thought-out as the traditional retailers’, but they soon realize that everything is there. It was up to them to decide what was quality and what wasn’t, and there were plenty of ratings and reviews to do so.

The convenience was never in doubt. Some products still need to be seen and touched and tried on (at least for some buyers), but the Internet is more convenient for almost anything that can be shipped. The Internet brands that win are the ones that make things more convenient. Google’s easy search. Amazon’s one-click purchase. eBay’s ability to find almost anything.

It’s not that brands don’t mean anything anymore. It’s that what makes a brand reliable and convenient has changed. As you think about how your business can adapt to digital marketing, think about whether you truly provide an experience that will make customers come back again and again. If you do, that’s brand loyalty.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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