linked in facebook twitter rss

  • Interbrand
  • Brandchannel

your chance!
your chance! brand
by Brad Cook
July 1, 2002

When you visit, the title bar at the top of your web browser makes a bold proclamation: “ – Earth’s Biggest Selection.” Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but at the rate is going it might just be a matter of time before it’s true.

By now, most everyone is familiar with the brand – a proposition that can be best summarized as convenient, low-priced, efficient, personalized, and customer-service friendly. These key qualities in a retail brand go a long way to explain’s popularity.

The brand is a far cry from its humble beginnings in July 1995, when it modestly aimed to be the number one place on the World Wide Web to buy books. Today, not only can you pick up a copy of the latest bestseller at a discount, but you can also buy a high-definition widescreen TV, a DVD player, new DVDs, some pots and pans to cook dinner with before your big movie night, and a faster computer to use for your next purchase.

Such diversification and growth is vital to because it keeps the brand at the forefront of the online shopping industry. In fact, by virtue of having arrived at the party so early, can translate as “buy stuff online here” to anyone who wants to make a purchase without leaving home. The company has such strong name awareness that most will automatically visit the URL directly when they want to do some shopping.

Now that has transformed itself from the little bookstore on the corner to the mega-super-duper-full-of-stuff store that squats at the end of a monstrous parking lot, how good is the experience when you drop by for a visit? Well, the look and feel has stayed pretty much the same during the past eight years. But the layout and navigation work well for a business like There’s a big difference between mom-and-pops and monolithic retailers, but can increase its selection of products without intimidating the consumer with rows of products that stretch on forever. Simply click the category you want and you’re whisked away to, say, the cell phone department, without wasting any energy trudging through the toy department.

One drawback to online retailing, though, is that you can’t browse the same way you can in a bricks-and-mortar store. tries to be helpful with plenty of recommendations based on the items you bought or even looked at recently. The downside for the customer is recommendations based on gifts you bought for people whose taste is much different from your own; the downside for is missing the opportunity to introduce the customer to an out-of-category product or impulse buy along the way.

The site does allow you to see why it recommended a certain item and rates your previous purchases (or the items you viewed recently) on a scale of one to five to help guide future recommendations – or decide to exclude them altogether. Depending on your nature, the system can act as an irritant that detracts from the shopping experience, like a pushy salesperson who keeps coming back with products that he’s “just sure you’ll love.” Between the recommendations, the lists titled “Customers who bought the items above also bought,” and the lists of favorites created by other shoppers, the shopper can get lost in a tangled web of product links, which might be’s virtual equivalent of browsing a physical store, but can get overwhelming quickly.

So what are the brand advantages of over other retail outlets? It excels at competitive pricing – an advantage of not having the overhead of a physical retail space. It makes up for the lack of in-store customer service by supplying reams of information about the product. And it achieves global reach without a costly, risky roll out plan of physical storefronts. ( includes four international sites— in the US, in the UK; in Germany; in Japan; and in France.) When it comes time to check out, the company has done a fine job of streamlining the process for repeat consumers. A click on “proceed to checkout” from the shopping cart screen brings you to a page with all your vital information on it, such as shipping address, payment method, and so forth. The shopper can easily revise the information before clicking “place your order,” which is a big improvement over the old method of clicking through several screens before completing an order.’s customer service continues until the package is on your front doorstep. One can log on and track the order to see where it’s been and where it’s headed at any time. And if you want to return something, they’ve made that a snap too: Simply contact their customer service department and let them know what you’re dissatisfied with. Then take the return label from the original packing slip, place it on the box, and send it off. They’ll even issue a credit before they receive the merchandise, something that not every online retailer will do. And you won’t have to stand in the long lines that plague many physical retailers.

The mail-order challenge that operates under requires the customer to choose an item sight unseen and wait for its delivery. But by providing exemplary, hassle-free service, convenient ordering and a growing list of products to choose from, managed to beat the bricks-and-mortar alternative and win customers over to its virtual superstore. It’s nearly as amazing as the first signs of profit turned this year.


Brad Cook is a freelance writer based in Sunnyvale, CA. He has published over 120 articles in a variety of print and online media since 1995.

 commenting closed Add Social Bookmark bookmark  print
 suggest topic  recommend ( 7 )  email

  brandchannel profile archive   2011  |  2010  |  2009  |  2008  |  2007  |  2006  |  2005  |  2004  |  2003  | 2002  |  2001
Dec 30, 2002 Opera - rising star -- Sultan Omar
  Opera stages a dramatic performance against Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
Dec 16, 2002 The Lord of the Rings - towers -- Brad Cook
  The Lord of the Rings brand is as snug as a hobbit in a hobbit hole, but will the brand survive beyond the box office?
Dec 9, 2002 UNICEF - unites -- Robin D. Rusch
  Global non-profit UNICEF marks its birthday with a revised and defined brand roll out.
Dec 2, 2002 Coca-Cola - a classic -- Brad Cook
  How did Coca-Cola manage to get the whole world in its hand?
Nov 25, 2002 Pep - recharged -- Ron Irwin
  Retail chain store Pep celebrates a half-century in Africa.
Nov 18, 2002 Royal Selangor - breaking the mold -- D. Sauer
  Malaysian brand Royal Selangor shows slow but steady progress as it occupies the top shelf along with other top Asian brands.
Nov 11, 2002 WWE - get the 'F' out -- Dave Liss
  World Wrestling Entertainment gets smacked down but remains in the ring.
Nov 4, 2002 Benihana - chop chop -- Randall Frost
  Benihana tries to appeal to a western palate.
Oct 28, 2002 Maruti - driving a nation -- Sultan Omar
  What drives Maruti’s success in India?
Oct 21, 2002 Star Trek - lost in space -- Brad Cook
  Star Trek drifts in and out of a black hole.
Oct 14, 2002 Blekkulf - eco ink -- Michael Standaert
  Norway's Blekkulf swims south where European children embrace the eco-brand.
Oct 7, 2002 San Miguel - hops -- Abram D. Sauer
  Tap into the incredible success behind Filipino brand San Miguel.
Sep 30, 2002 Nintendo - leaps and bounds -- Brad Cook
  Can cartoon characters carry the Nintendo brand through the 21st century?
Sep 23, 2002 Nautica - sea worthy -- Abram D. Sauer
  Lifestyle brand Nautica sails on.
Sep 16, 2002 Emmperative - imperative? -- Fiona Harvey
  How did P&G’s enterprise marketing management software Emmperative fail?
Sep 9, 2002 EV Global Motors - stalled -- Randall Frost
  Has EV Global Motors lost its power?
Sep 2, 2002 Elidel - covers the globe -- Edwin Colyer
  Novartis hits the global stage with a one-identity-fits-all approach for Elidel.
Aug 26, 2002 Kreepy Krauly - sucks -- Ron Irwin
  The deeper Kreepy Krauly sinks, the stronger the brand emerges.
Aug 19, 2002 Callaway - driving the market -- Randall Frost
  How did Callaway link its name with respectability in such a relatively short period of time?
Aug 12, 2002 Game - leads the pack -- Ron Irwin
  Can Game win in its expansion plans across Africa?
Aug 5, 2002 Presto - huh? -- Evelyn Hafferty
  Nike attempts intrigue to attract the Gen Y crowd to its Presto launch. But is it ingenuous or just insipid?
Jul 29, 2002 Warner Bros. - what's up Doc? -- Brad Cook
  Now that Warner Bros. has passed into the AOL Time Warner conglomerate, is th-th-th-that all folks?
Jul 22, 2002 Famous Amos - making dough -- Randall Frost
  A lot of companies have stuck their hands in the cookie jar of Famous Amos and changed the brand formula from a gourmet cookie for the jet set to a commodity.
Jul 15, 2002 Electronic Arts - amazin' -- Brad Cook
  Through a new name, new competition, and new concepts, Electronic Arts remains MVP of the gaming world.
Jul 8, 2002 Cell C - connected -- Ron Irwin
  Cell C attempts to connect with the wireless market in South Africa.
Jun 24, 2002 Consignia - royal f *%# up -- Abram D. Sauer
  When the Post Office tried to cram Consignia through the traditional letterbox, Brits protested and sent the dogs to stamp it out.
Jun 17, 2002 Weber - smokin’ -- Ron Irwin
  With nearly 365 days of grilling weather per year, every day is Sunday for Weber Grills in South Africa.
Jun 10, 2002 ALDI - preiswert -- John Karolefski
  German retail chain ALDI keeps prices low to generate high revenue.
Jun 3, 2002 FIFA - goooal! -- Abram D. Sauer
  Will FIFA suffer from the same brand-destroying scandal that rocked the Olympic committee?
May 27, 2002 adidas - contender -- Vivian Manning-Schaffel
  German sporting goods brand, adidas, laces up its sneaks and gets out on the court to take on Nike.
May 20, 2002 Lustucru - saucy -- Jocelyne Henri
  French pasta brand Lustucru takes on Barilla and Panzani in a saucy cook off.
May 13, 2002 Star Wars - universal force -- Brad Cook
  As audiences queue worldwide to watch the next episode of Star Wars, we ask, What’s the big deal?
May 6, 2002 Gatorade - endures -- Brad Cook
  The Gatorade team has managed to rule the sports drink market for decades -- perhaps there’s something in their drink?
Apr 29, 2002 Leatherman - sharp -- Ron Irwin
  Leatherman enlists the old-fashioned values of customer support and quality product to carve a niche in the Sub-Saharan African market.
Apr 22, 2002 Napster - 9 lives -- Fred Burt
  Napster ruled because it broke the rules. How can Bertelsmann credibly own this brand?
Apr 15, 2002 Marvel Comics - super -- Brad Cook
  Holy history, Batman! Marvel Comics is in its sixth decade of performing superheroic feats.
Apr 8, 2002 Planet Hollywood - lost in space -- Abram D. Sauer
  Where does celebrity go to die? Planet Hollywood perhaps.
Apr 1, 2002 Atari - bonus round -- Brad Cook
  Atari loads up on quarters and heads back to the arcade to win our hearts all over again. Game over? Hardly.
Mar 25, 2002 Petit Bateau - full sails -- Jocelyne Henri
  Take a peek beneath the strategy at Petit Bateau to see how they managed to rescue the brand and attract an older generation.
Mar 18, 2002 Vertu - Upwardly mobile -- Patricia Tan
  Nokia’s new luxury phone, Vertu, is part Rolex, part BMW, part Jeeves. But can a handset brand support an $18,000 price tag?
Mar 11, 2002 Absolut - brilliance -- Ian Cocoran
  Absolut keeps on top of new media to continue its smart dialogue with the drinking public.
Mar 4, 2002 Mrs. Fields - cookin' -- John Karolefski
  Mrs. Fields has been cookin’ for 25 years; we sample her goods.
Feb 25, 2002 Vivian Lives - virtually -- Vivian Manning-Schaffel
  Looking for the perfect spokesperson to promote your brand to Gen Y? Why not create one out of thin air and call her Vivian Livingston?
Feb 18, 2002 ABSA bank - gaining interest -- Ron Irwin
  The Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (Absa) is investing in its brand to retain and attract both groups.
Feb 11, 2002 Ministry of Sound - still spinning -- Abram D. Sauer
  The UK’s Ministry of Sound takes on an MTV-like status as it moves from a club scene to a multimillion-pound brand.
Feb 4, 2002 Marmite - my mate -- Edward Young
  One man’s food is another’s axle grease. As Marmite celebrates its anniversary, we ask is the world ready for another 100 years?
Jan 28, 2002 Environ - wrinkle free -- Ron Irwin
  Environ projects an image as an exclusive product whose demand far outweighs its supply.
Jan 21, 2002 Just Born - a born sucker -- Abram D. Sauer
  After nearly a century of making candy, Just Born reaps over $100M a year and yet still promotes itself as a mom & pop brand.
Jan 14, 2002 H&M - Hot & Mod -- Abram D. Sauer
  H&M is hot, but focusing loyalty on price not product, forces the brand to compete with both low-end discount chains and chic designers.
Jan 7, 2002 Topps - trading on its heritage -- John Karolefski
  From penny gum sales to e-merchandising, we profile Topps Company, with over 60 years of delighting kids, big and small.