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A lot of online companies thrive. Why? Is it because they have a clean-looking, beautiful site? Is it because people love the brand? Is it because the site is easy to navigate, and people would rather buy online than in-store today? I believe one could answer “yes” to all of these. One particular brand can answer yes to all of these – and that brand would be Zappos. However, Zappos has one other factor that many online companies may lack. Customer support.

Even though an online company is not face-to-face customer interaction. People running an online-based business need to recognize that it is INTERface-interface interactions each time a customer comes onto the site. Zappos recognized this early on, and is known for its customer relations and incredible employee care for the consumers. This is their “X-factor”, if you will. If every online company harnessed the power of customer support, I think there would be a lot more very wealthy brands like Zappos. It’s a good thing to keep in mind!

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Iceberg Rootbeer

Throughout this semester we have been working with Iceberg Rootbeer, an emerging brand in the home-brewed root beer space. In looking at his branding, specifically through social media marketing and his website, I think there is a lot of important lessons to be gleaned.

First, branding is so critical to a successful brand. Being consistent across all platforms gives customers an almost unconscious comfort in the trustworthiness of the brand. We found that Iceberg had a confusing logo that did not match well with the “feel” or style of the brand and drink itself. Making that change will be crucial for him to have this brand consistency in his online presence. Secondly, I believe that social media marketing for this particular brand will be instrumental in his success. Especially if he continues going down the path of targeting “hipsters” and young millennials with this drink, providing a means for people to start talking about this on social media platforms will kickstart the buzz on this brand. Third and lastly, his website will be an opportune platform for selling, once he gets it up and running and looking clean. This is so important nowadays to have a well-oiled website where people can buy easily and find information FAST. Taking into consideration all of these factors, I think Iceberg has a real shot in the marketplace!

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Grove City College Website

How big of an impact does online presence play in attracting students to a college campus? This is a question I have asked myself in reference to Grove City College’s website. As a tour guide I am constantly asking myself how I can better attract a student to the college. Whether it is altering what I’m talking about to tailor to what the student is interested, or just explaining my personal relevant experiences, I want to do my best to represent the college well. Unfortunately, I don’t think the college website has been very effective at showing off the caliber of excellence found at GCC.

Whether good or bad, an online presence in about 10 or less seconds gives a viewer a snapshot of what you stand for. If the website is of poor quality, does this reflect a poor quality school? If it is hard to navigate, does this reflect a school that does not care for details – like in this website search capability? As a current student, I am thankful to hear the website is going to be re-done, and I think the sooner the better! I want Grove City College’s website to be just another factor in a prospective student’s realization of how incredible the school as a whole is.

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Online Sales

As I have been developing my own company, PeeWee Packs, it has been interesting looking at the pros and cons of starting a brick and mortar store versus a primarily online-based business. Although our product is physical, we as founders are asking ourselves if it makes sense to start primarily selling and distributing our product via online sales on our own website and also on Amazon to gain mass market availability.

I believe the answer is yes, and here’s why. For PeeWee Packs specifically, we are targeting young moms. Young moms are CONSTANTLY on their phones and checking social media, in addition to buying most things online in the convenience of their own home. Having our selling platform be primarily online I believe will be a great advantage to us starting out, and then we will look to bring our product to big box retail stores.  

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Baidu: famous as “Chinese Google”

The history of Baidu dates back to a time when Google was still under development.Back in 1994, Robin Li, working for the Down Jones and Company, began researching on algorithms for search engines. He developed RankDex in 1996. It was an algorithm that ranked web pages. However, around the same time, Larry Page began developing a similar kind of algorithm PageRank, which would be used in Google. After working for Infoseek for a few years, Robin Li moved to China in 1999 to launch Baidu. At that time, Internet use in China has just begun and it was a land of overwhelming possibilities. Baidu began as a paid search service for major corporations. After a year, Robin Li scrapped that idea launched Baidu as an independent service.

It was during this time that Robin Li and his team worked the hardest to improve Baidu. They worked overtime, doubled the effort and within the span of just one year, Baidu’s index of searchable pages was double the size of its nearest competitor in China.Baidu continued to dominate the search engine and internet marketing domains in China and to this date, it remains the number one search portal in China. When it went public in 2005, Baidu was the largest IPO since 2000. On its opening day, the stock gained immensely and ended the opening day with a return of 354%! The company offers various internet based services ranging from search to cloud storage, Web browsers to online advertising and marketing. Initially famous as “China’s Google”, Baidu is the second largest independent search engine today. The company has its share of criticisms though. Baidu was accused of censorship and promoting illegal music downloads. Its public image always suffered because the search results would be flooded with sponsored ads making it difficult for users to spot organic search results.

The company is taking steps to make the experience more user centric and friendly by introducing Phoenix Nest – a better way to display advertisements, similar to how Google displays its sponsored ads. The company is trying hard to improve its image.

Baidu Headquarters

Baidu is currently a China centric company with markets in other South East Asian nations, but it has plans to expand onto the global platform soon.The growth of Baidu can be attributed to its founder Robin Li’s vision and dedication. When his algorithm RankDex was shadowed by Google, he did not silently watch his ideas slip into oblivion. Instead he moved on and launched his own business in China and today the success of Baidu is overwhelming. Baidu’s journey from a small startup to the world’s 2nd biggest independent search engine is a story which will inspire many. Considering that its opposition is the mighty Google, the story is all the more motivating. As Baidu begins to rework its strategies to make amends and improve its image, the success story tells you that first step to achieving your dreams is to never give up on them.

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Sina Corp

China’s favorite online media company, Sina Corp, is one success story that can attribute its growth to the era of the massive internet media growth. Today, it majorly has three divisions, – a popular website that hosts other websites as well, Sina Weibo – the social networking site, and – a mobile portal. All of these have become huge successes individually.

Sina is popular with the Chinese all over the world. The company did not begin in China but the United States, albeit by a Chinese businessman. Sina corp was formed by Wang Zhidong, the CEO of Stone Rich Site Information Technology Ltd. The merger with, the already hugely popular website led to the birth of Sina Corp. Since the inception in the North America, Sina Corp spread quickly throughout the world and then into Hong Kong. During the time of NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy, the website grew in popularity throughout China and the rest of the Chinese community spread out across the world. The portal was known for reporting the incident accurately, thereby getting most people to rely on the news content. The site also went on to replace the then really popular Chinese news website,

By the year 2000, Sina made it to the listing of websites by NASDAQ, something that only popular names like Sohu and Netease could achieve by then. When the 2000 Olympics was held in Sydney, Sina was chosen as their online media site to officially cover the events as decided by the Australian and the Chinese government.

Sina Corp Headquarters

The social networking site of the company, Sina Weibo is an equivalent to Twitter and is extremely popular. The platform has as many as 500 million users today with 20 million users getting added to the network every month. Despite the fact that Twitter is the most popular microblogging site in the world, Sina Weibo constitutes for a 56.5% of China’s microblogging market. Sina Weibo is bigger than twitter as most of the local celebs use Weibo instead of Twitter. In the early 2000’s Sina even won the ‘Chinese Media of the Year’ award for billions of numbers of page visits gained by the site. Since then, the portal had been reigning the world of Chinese online media, winning some really loyal fans along the way. Today, the Chinese all over the world are still very much hooked on to everything that is Sina.

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NetEase: give me your money

Founded in 1997 with just 3 employees, NetEase has grown into one of the largest Internet companies in China. When Kathy Xu from Baring Private Equity Partners, a venture capital firm, invested 5 million dollars into NetEase, the results could have gone either way. By 2000, the company was listed on NASDAQ and raised about 70 million dollars. For any young entrepreneur, this kind of a journey would be a dream come true. It was at the end of the dot-com bubble that the investors became cautious. NetEase’s accounting scandal broke in 2001. The stock was suspended from NASDAQ and faced threats of delisting. Ding Lei went around looking for new investors but found no takers. Just when it looked like the doors would shut on NetEase, Lei had a plan

He wanted to venture into the online gaming business, a plan that was swiftly rejected by the board. Being a majority shareholder, Lei went ahead with his plan. This was the jackpot for NetEase. By 2003, he had become China’s richest man.

NetEase’s massively multiplayer online game Fantasy Westward Journey, developed by an in-house team was a raging hit amongst gamers. By 2005 alone, the game had about 25 million users and required about 198 game servers.

In the rapidly evolving world, mobile games are quickly taking over from their desktop counterparts. NetEase has a large in-house R&D team which not only puts the company ahead of its curve, but also tackles gaming transitions. Ding Lei has a plan to start an organic farming business and has readied about 16 million dollars for investment into the sector. Ding Lei’s aim is to create jobs in the country side and provide an incentive for the farmers to return to farming.

NetEase has identified about 17 possible sectors for investment where it can install modern equipment and provide a platform for farmers to utilize the latest in technology. In a country like China with vast tracts of fertile land at disposal, this could be a next step forward for a sustainable future.NetEase has already partnered with Coursera to deliver an online learning platform to provide quality education for free. They have translated over 8000 hours of video lectures into Chinese and this is one way of NetEase giving back to the community.

NetEase’s success can be largely attributed to its ability to come up with innovative ideas which are executed with dedication and commitment. NetEase’s journey and its plan for the future is a proof of the fact that hard work and the ability to adapt always help one to bounce back from the setbacks.

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