The first time surfers visit Arepa.com, they see more than 100 software applications, games and other digital content they can stream and run over high-speed Internet connections. If they rent anything, the next time they hit the site, they're immediately ushered into the "My Titles" page. Here they're shown their rental history without the now-irrelevant main-page information.
The idea, says Ric Folup, the 24-year-old founder of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Arepa Inc., is to increase convenience and purchases by providing every user with a personalized view. Many dot.coms, such as Amazon.com, CDNow, Excite and Yahoo!, are employing similar tricks in hopes of quickly giving users what they want, distinguishing themselves from the competition and, of course, increasing sales. It appears to work: Excite, for instance, reports that customization has quintupled its number of repeat customers.
"[These sites show] users what they're interested in," explains Jonathan Avedikian, vice president and design director at The Internet Design Firm, a start-up Web development company in Austin, Texas. "That increases sales and also brings users back again because they see what they want without having to go look for it."
Mark Henricks, author of Business Plans Made Easy (Entrepreneur Media Inc., $19.95, http://www.entrepreneur.com) and Mastering Home Networking (Sybex Inc., $29.99, http://www.sybex.com), writes on business and technology issues.