Many e-commerce sites know your name and what you have bought before, and push similar products. Not a bad idea, but such customization is all sell and no service. You rarely see a site that learns your sensibilities as a consumer or holds your virtual hand--say, proactively dispelling your doubts by linking to independent reviews of the products or services being sold.
Can great service become common in a business climate set up to capture consumers by selling at razor-thin margins--or even at a loss--than trying to earn their loyalty?
I doubt it. Nordstrom service comes at Nordstrom prices. But bad service can kill fledgling Web brands, and it may not be a slow, agonizing death.
In a recent Forrester study, more than half the consumers who had a bad online buying experience said that they abandoned the offending merchant, and fully half abandoned e-commerce altogether.
"One thing I can tell you about [Internet retailing] is that customer loyalty is nonexistent," said Seymour Merrin, an industry consultant based in Santa Fe, N.M. "Anyone who wants loyalty should buy a dog and feed it."
On the Web, we're all hungry dogs.
Times staff writer Charles Piller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.