E-tailing: It's a brave, new world-one where companies you've never heard of fight for your trade. Who do you trust? Find answers at a growing number of Web sites that aim to guide cybershoppers through this wilderness. For you, this has double meaning-both as a consumer and a merchant. Perplexed consumers, swamped with headlines about fraud on the Internet, want guidance about where to shop. And as an e-tailer, you want to be rated highly.
So where do cybershoppers find guidance? A handful of sites have broken through to win visibility, and leading the pack is Gomez Advisors, which ranks everything from cyberdrugstores to florists. Log in here and, with a fast glance, see exactly who the category leaders are.
Gomez hardly owns this niche, however. Strong competition comes from Forrester Research with its PowerRankings. They cover much the same turf as Gomez, and are a good second opinion.
For yet another opinion, stop by TrailBreaker.com, where the experts who do the rankings aren't necessarily wonks. Some are university professors, others are reporters, one is a radio DJ. It's an eclectic list of experts-usually with true expertise.
Yet another route is taken by BizRate, which solicits ratings of merchants from ordinary consumers. BizRate covers a wide turf from apparel to travel, and its ranking is rooted in authentic shopping experiences.
For yet another reason to check out these sites, bargain hunters take note: Both Gomez and BizRate often offer big discount coupons (from $25 to $50) that can be redeemed at highly ranked merchants.
Robert McGarvey writes on business, psychology and management topics for several national publications. To reach him online with your questions or comments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.