As online businesses rapidly expand at the rate we observe today, it has become clear that products are evolving into tendencies of being exceedingly differentiated. What this means for companies is that they now see an abundance of other companies selling what appears to be the same product, although with slight variations. We see this with cereal, yogurt, and cookies, just to name a few food industry specific examples.

By giving consumers the options of several different brands ranging from low quality to high quality, cheap to expensive, the consumer has more control over the exact type of product they are looking for and how to find the collection of options. Now, instead of buying the leading brand of organic yogurt, your average yogurt-buyer looking for a more affordable option has the opportunity to find a solution easily and quickly.

While yogurt might be a small-scale example of highly differentiated products in the real world, most consumers aren’t using their search engines to locate their most affordable, quality yogurt option. Instead, we start to see it with less-necessitated products: dresses possessing a pattern a designer dress uses but at a lower price point, computers and laptops with slightly less storage or slightly more time with the warranty. It is products like this that we see in conversation with the functionality of search engines and gaining a very legitimate presence online.

Before this boom in search engine efficiency, many of these “knockoff products” were just that: knockoffs of something realer and more legitimate and also usually more expensive. But highly differentiated products appear to be having a moment in our online world that makes them the most legitimate they have ever been in past years.

Highly differentiated products don’t always have to seem like knockoffs, anyways. It could very well be exemplified by a search like “Toyota that looks like a Porsche.” This is something we see often, this inclusion of “that looks like” in our searches for products. “Sneakers that look like Yeezys,” or “wallpaper that looks like exposed brick” are also examples of the searches we’re seeing people make more frequently these days. In fact, searches like this have grown by over sixty-percent in the past two years. The “brands like,” “x but under y-dollars” searches of the world are having their moment, which says a lot about the value “authentic” products possess in the world today.     

The growth of fake brands and knockoffs into a legitimate online market says a lot about the opportunities highly suitable alternatives provide for those with lower income or different priorities. With a world of thousands of highly differentiated products available to the masses at just the click of a button in a search engine, the opportunity for people to set their own pricepoint without sacrificing appearance is only growing by the second.