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MediaPost reports on the growing research indicating that companies that use the Internet to market their goods and services are seeing increased sales and brand awareness, with one study showing that four out of ten adults actually changing their opinions of brands based upon information gleaned from the Internet.

This trend seems to have been embraced in the consumer packaged goods community, where companies like Kellogg’s, Nabisco, and Colgate-Palmolive have used the web to drive shopper awareness of products like Special K, reduced fat Wheat Thins, and Simply White, respectively.

In a separate story yesterday, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported on, an Internet site that generates enough traffic (more than 15 million “page views” a month) that advertisers actually bid to be part of its coupon mix. features some 2,000 coupons in combination with other direct marketing and content delivery services.

That’s not to say that e-commerce is of secondary importance. Indeed, a new study called the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), by the University of Michigan and ForeSee Results, an online customer satisfaction management firm, reveals that online retailers seem to be stronger in terms of customer satisfaction, loyalty, and future growth prospects than virtually any other sector of the economy. This isn’t to suggest that brick-and-mortar retailers aren’t satisfying customers, but rather that e-tailers like and seem to have a stronger trajectory at the moment.

Think of it as the Internet boom 2.0.
KC's View:
You won’t be surprised to learn that we thoroughly endorse the use of the Internet to support brick-and-mortar sales operations, especially in the food industry.

It seems to us that the food shopping experience -- not to mention the food consumption experience -- can be almost hopelessly complicated in terms of options. People simply don’t understand what’s available to them in the supermarket. Not really understand.

In fact, we believe that it is this consumer ignorance about the plethora of choices available in the supermarket that makes the shopper so vulnerable to appeals made by “alternative formats,” which often focus on just one or two features, such as “cheaper” or “larger.”

Interestingly, with the exception of the health-oriented retailers, few stores seem to use the adjective “better” to explain their product selection, and then back it up with a bank of information from which the shopper can choose as much or as little as she needs to make a more informed choice.

These efforts need to be integrated with the brick-and-mortar experience. When possible, they need to be integrated with an e-commerce effort that is a strategic alternative that can satisfy the 2003-era customer need for product when she wants it, how she wants it, where she wants it, and at a cost she is willing to pay for it.

It is this combination of efforts, we believe, that can be the “promised land” for retailers. Not inexpensive to achieve, not easy, not foolproof. But certainly better than offering just a routine, often mundane shopping experience, low prices that often aren’t really the lowest, and conventional thinking about what the shopper wants and needs.

This is a consumer environment that embraces the unconventional, the imaginative, the innovative -- if for no other reason than it attracts attention, establishes differentiation, creates focus in a cluttered world.