In an era of online shopping and search engines, retailers are especially invested in what you're searching for most often, what brands are selling best, and how they can direct your searches to their own products. In the case of Amazon, the company has control over what products appear in your search results for a range of goods from batteries to apparel. Depending on the retailer, they're interested in promoting their own in-house brands or brands they have personal stake in - whether you're aware of it or not.

The reasoning behind retailers' self-promotion isn't solely about profit greed. Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at New York University Stern School of Business, describes Amazon's tactic: "I think, effectively, you have a company that has conspired with about a billion consumers and technology to destroy brands. Their attitude is that brands have, for a long time, earned an unearned price premium that screws consumers."

But some commodities are easier to replicate than others, so you're more likely to stumble across so-called "Best Sellers" of certain in-brand items than others. From Amazon to Target and Walmart, retailers are more likely to steer you towards their own versions of these products.

Household Goods

Daily household items are easy to copy in knock-off brands: paper towels, batterie, and extension cords. Whether it's AmazonBasics or Target's Up&Up, your online search results on those websites are programmed to recommend the in-store brand.

Staple Food Items

With online food shopping growing in popularity in densely populated areas, coffee, cereals, and even perishable items like butter and eggs are the most common items offered by retailers' own brands. From Target's Market Pantry and Archer Farms to Walmart's Great Value line, you're pushed see these goods at the top of search results. James Thomson, a former Amazon executive who now works with brands hoping to sell their products to Amazon, told The New York Times: "Amazon has access to data that nobody else has. I can't just walk into a store and say, 'Excuse me, did you look at this brand of cereal this morning and decide not to buy it?' Amazon has that data. They know you looked at a brand and didn't buy it and they're not going to share that data with any other brands."

Basic Apparel

Simple clothing like T-shirts, button-ups, and sneakers are universally relevant to all demographics, which means there's a flooded marketplace for them. Amazon creates and promotes private labels that use customer data to create the most appealing product. Cooper Smith, an analyst at Gartner L2, says, "Amazon can analyze those reviews and figure out why customers were dissatisfied with a certain product. Amazon can then turn around and create a private label for a similar product but improve upon it based on what customers say."

How trustworthy your recommended search results are depends on what you're seeking. While you might see more genuine feedback for niche or tech-oriented products, basic items are so easily replicable that you're probably only searching online to decide which brand you should trust. Retailers have vested interests in your attraction to their own in-house or private labels, so as an exercise in digital literacy you have to treat the results with skepticism.

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Over two years into the most momentous event in our lives the world has changed forever … Some of us have PTSD from being locked up at home, some are living like everything’s going to end tomorrow, and the rest of us are merely trying to get by. When the pandemic hit we entered a perpetual state of vulnerability, but now we’re supposed to return to normal and just get on with our lives.

What does that mean? Packed bars, concerts, and grocery shopping without a mask feel totally strange. We got used to having more rules over our everyday life, considering if we really had to go out or keeping Zooming from our living rooms in threadbare pajama bottoms.

The work-from-home culture changed it all. Initially, companies were skeptical about letting employees work remotely, automatically assuming work output would fall and so would the quality. To the contrary, since March of 2020 productivity has risen by 47%, which says it all. Employees can work from home and still deliver results.

There are a number of reasons why everyone loves the work from home culture. We gained hours weekly that were wasted on public transport, people saved a ton of money, and could work from anywhere in the world. Then there were the obvious reasons like wearing sweats or loungewear all week long and having your pets close by. Come on, whose cat hasn’t done a tap dance on your keyboard in the middle of that All Hands Call!

Working from home grants the freedom to decorate your ‘office’ any way you want. But then people needed a change of environment. Companies began requesting their employees' RTO, thus generating the Hybrid Work Model — a blend of in-person and virtual work arrangements. Prior to 2020, about 20% of employees worked from home, but in the midst of the pandemic, it exploded to around 70%.

Although the number of people working from home increased and people enjoyed their flexibility, politicians started calling for a harder RTW policy. President Joe Biden urges us with, “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again.”

While Boris Johnson said, “Mother Nature does not like working from home.'' It wasn’t surprising that politicians wanted people back at their desks due to the financial impact of working from the office. According to a report in the BBC, US workers spent between $2,000 - $5,000 each year on transport to work before the pandemic.

That’s where the problem lies. The majority of us stopped planning for public transport, takeaway coffee, and fresh work-appropriate outfits. We must reconsider these things now, and our wallets are paying

the price. Gas costs are at an all-time high, making public transport increase their fees; food and clothes are all on a steep incline. A simple iced latte from Dunkin’ went from $3.70 to $3.99 (which doesn’t seem like much but 2-3 coffees a day with the extra flavors and shots add up to a lot), while sandwiches soared by 14% and salads by 11%.

This contributes to the pressure employees feel about heading into the office. Remote work may have begun as a safety measure, but it’s now a savings measure for employees around the world.

Bloomberg are offering its US staff a $75 daily commuting stipend that they can spend however they want. And other companies are doing the best they can. This still lends credence to ‘the great resignation.’ Initially starting with the retail, food service, and hospitality sectors which were hard hit during the pandemic, it has since spread to other industries. By September 2021, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4.4 million resignations.

That’s where the most critical question lies…work from home, work from the office or stick to this new hybrid world culture?

Borris Johnson thinks, “We need to get back into the habit of getting into the office.” Because his experience of working from home “is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing.”

While New York City Mayor Eric Adams says you “can't stay home in your pajamas all day."

In the end, does it really matter where we work if efficiency and productivity are great? We’ve proven that companies can trust us to achieve the same results — or better! — and on time with this hybrid model. Employees can be more flexible, which boosts satisfaction, improves both productivity and retention, and improves diversity in the workplace because corporations can hire through the US and indeed all over the world.

We’ve seen companies make this work in many ways, through virtual lunches, breakout rooms, paint and prosecco parties, and — the most popular — trivia nights.

As much as we strive for normalcy, the last two years cannot simply be erased. So instead of wiping out this era, it's time to embrace the change and find the right world culture for you.

What would get you into the office? Free lunch? A gym membership? Permission to hang out with your dog? Some employers are trying just that.

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Did you hear about the Great Resignation? It isn’t over. Just over two years of pandemic living, many offices are finally returning to full-time or hybrid experiences. This is causing employees to totally reconsider their positions.

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