What Makes Cybermerchants Successful
Outdoor gear and clothing retailer REI racks up 35% of its online orders between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., when its stores are closed and its mail-order operators aren't available. Dell's cybershopping cart lets customers customize a PC online and then store the selection for up to two weeks.
Unlimited Web store shelf space means E-merchants such as Amazon.com and eToys can cram sites full of offerings. Amazon, ''Earth's Biggest Bookstore,'' has more than 3 million books, plus music and other products. Realtor.com lists 1.1 million homes, which it claims is more than 90% of all homes for sale in the U.S.
eBay's virtual flea market, with lively chats and ratings systems, keeps subscribers buzzing about shared interests ranging from memorabilia to stamps. ''Recommender services'' at sites including N2K's Music Boulevard track information about customers' tastes and suggest books and CDs that might be of interest.
CDnow offers its hottest-selling compact disks for 30% below average retail prices, while Amazon sells books for up to 40% off the cover price. But considering how much Web merchants claim they can save in costs by operating in cyberspace, true savings are rare once shipping costs are figured in.
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