Online retailers have discovered that branding still matters, especially when prices aren't different enough to guide buyers to an immediate decision.
With so many e-tailers selling the same products, some are hedging their bets by presenting themselves as different online brands. These retailers are offering the same products in different locations on the Web, sometimes with different prices, different presentations, and a different site/company name.
For instance, CentricsIT
sells enterprise computing products through CentricsIT.com, but it also sells its products through two other sites that are designed to be found by customers searching for specific product categories. Both ShopF5.com
and BuyJuniper.net highlight subsets of the company's full inventory.
All three sites are identified as being operated by CentricsIT, but the company name is not the main brand identity. Rather, customers identify the sites based on their specific requirements.
"The only difference we see in the customers is focus," Mandy Hauck, manager of marketing communications for CentricsIT, told us. "Those who visit our specialized F5 and Juniper Websites are definitely looking for those product lines, whereas people visiting our flagship site can be browsing for anything."
Designer Drapery Hardware takes another approach by offering different packages of its products on two different Websites. It caters to professional designers through its company-branded site, DesignerDraperyHardware.com, where it emphasizes brands and individual components that appeal to decorators and professionals familiar with the market. The company's CurtainRodSets.com is designed to appeal to consumers who are looking for complete packages and may be less concerned with specific brands. Price comparisons between the sites are less important, because neither type of shopper is likely to visit the other site, even if that shopper knows that both sites are operated by the same company.
"The main site, www.DesignerDraperyHardware.com, confused a portion of our visitors because of all of the options," said Nathan C. Cole, president of Designer Drapery Hardware. "Creating www.CurtainRodSets.com and grouping the products together in complete sets appealed to visitors with little or no knowledge about how to assemble a drapery hardware treatment."
Though CentricsIT maintains consistent pricing for its products across its sites, Designer Drapery Hardware adds a 10 percent "convenience" fee to the bundled products on its consumer site. "We went this price style because we wanted to offer free shipping on all products from Curtain Rod Sets," Cole said. "In order to mitigate the freight loss, we added the convenience fee, which typically generates a price almost identical to what you would pay if ordering a la carte on Designer Drapery Hardware."
CentricsIT and Designer Drapery Hardware have different approaches to their multisite marketing efforts, but it's clear that multiple Web presences are becoming the preferred way to present products to a more granular set of customers who want specific products presented in particular ways.
— Scott Koegler was a CIO for 15 years and has been writing about technology for the last 18 years. He is editor of www.ec-bp.org, a newsletter that addresses supply chain technologies, and manages other newsletters at www.YourCompanyNewsletter.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.