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Keep 'em Coming Back

Red-hot rivalry has Web execs working hard to make their sites "sticky"

For Arthur "Ti" Moyer, picking an Internet portal to nab his daily dose of online news and shopping was a cinch. Even though portals are as common these days as the fluctuations on Nasdaq, Moyer surfs straight to iWon.com. Why? The six-month-old site mixes news, sports, and other content with the chance to win $1 million every month. The concept elevated iWon to the fifth-most-visited site on the Web in February, according to Media Metrix. And it may just stay there. "I'll continue to use iWon," says Moyer, an engineer in Adrian, Mich., who walked away with $1 million in iWon's February giveaway, based on an accumulation of points for browsing the site.

With millions of sites on the Internet vying for cybernaut loyalty, Web execs are working hard to attract "sticky" users--visitors who are compelled to visit long and often. The two measures of stickiness are the number of minutes visitors stay at a site and the frequency with which they return. Popular sites such as Yahoo! Inc. have long held on to members with such goodies as instant messages. But e-commerce sites typically have less glue, allowing visitors to shop and split--sometimes never to return.

That doesn't mean e-tailers can't keep a loyal base of customers with the proper stickum. E-tailers spend 75% of their budget, an average of $313,000, on acquiring consumers, and only 25% on retaining them. Rather than pouring money into ads designed to pull people to the site, they'd be better served by spending on content that keeps shoppers there.

So what sort of content gives a site that cotton-candy quality? Consumers find value in how-to sections, product comparisons, expert sources, and testimonials. Consider Howard Gilmore's experience at CornerHardware.com. When he had a question about a lamp for the garage of his home in Glendale, Ariz., he simply clicked on an icon labeled "questions," and up popped a live chat screen with a hardware expert. In less than a minute, the expert told him the lamp he had chosen included the dimmer he was looking for. "I couldn't believe it," says Gilmore, a self-described tool guy who visits the site at least twice a week.

Rather than the skinny on tools, Matchmaker.com offers the 411 on prospective partners. The Web is full of dating sites, but few offer much depth on their members. Matchmaker profiles are gleaned from a survey of some 60 questions. In February, serious seekers of romance spent an average of 2.2 hours at Matchmaker.com--more than any other site on the Web, says Media Metrix.

At iWon, the $1 million prize is its hot glue. But the site is careful to mix its giveaways with content. For example, the shopping area includes a buyer's guide with reviews. And of course, there's that added incentive: Click on one of the 22 shopping categories, and you accumulate points that go toward a chance to win cash. Now that's something that sticks with you.e.biz online

For a review of Matchmaker.com check out Clicks & Misses on May 12 at ebiz.businessweek.com.By Roger O. Crockett, Roger_crockett@ebiz.Businessweek.comReturn to top

TABLE

Who's Got Cyberglue?

Web-site operators want to be sticky--a term used for the amount of time

visitors spend at a site. Here are the Net's stickiest sites:

AVG. MIN. PER

WEB SITE VISITOR IN FEB.

Matchmaker.com 134.2

Ignifuge.com 123.6

eBay.com 103.5

Hotmail.com 93.5

Freerealtime.com 90.5

Mplayer.com 89.7

Freeride.com 88.0

Ragingbull.com 87.6

Netaddress.com 78.4

Eguard.com 77.0

DATA: MEDIA METRIX INC.

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