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Need Identification and Product Recommendation

Any purchase of a product or service starts with a consumer's perception of a need. This gives a company its first opportunity to build a relationship with a potential customer by either anticipating or stimulating a consumer need. By helping a consumer fill a product or service need, a company can collect–voluntarily–information on a potential customer.

A reminder service is a good example. This kind of service reminds a consumer to purchase a product or service for an important event. A consumer might want to be reminded about a family member's birthday, his or her wedding anniversary, or Mother's or Father's Day. There are several dozen reminder services on the Net today where consumers can list their important dates and be reminded via email about an upcoming event. Candor's Birthday and Anniversary Reminder Service (http://www.candor.com/reminder/default.asp) is an example of a service that reminds you about upcoming birthdays via email.

The value to the consumer is the timely reminder–the value to the e-business is the collection of specific information on the consumer and a potential sale. An e-business can add a reminder service to any product or service it sells. A simple example is an online florist. When a consumer registers with its reminder service, a predetermined bouquet of flowers is sent out automatically for birthdays, Mother's Day, and the like.

Another way to collect consumer information is to offer a wish-list service. My Wish List (http://www.mywishlist.com/) enables consumers to create a shopping list of products that they want and direct friends and family to the site to view their list. Another such service is gift registries such as Your Registry (http://www.yourweddingregistry.com/) that create a custom gift-list registry for any occasion, then offer to purchase the gift from a variety of stores.

Your Registry directs consumers to other stores. But an e-business could also provide registries on their site, such as Target (http://www.target.com/) (see Figure 3.1) does for weddings and baby showers, and sell its own products to gift registrants.

Add a Reminder Service

Novator's Reminder Service (http://www.novator.com/Remind/Remind.html) Partner Program offers a tailored version of its Reminder Service for your Web site. It offers online registration and reminder editing; calendar-based reminders; and multiple reminders per event.

Finally, a company can collect targeted consumer information by a recommendation-engine based on personal tastes and lifestyle indicators. Several sites on the Net will let you choose a gift based on profession, lifestyle, age, or sex. The Perfect Present Picker (http://presentpicker.com/ppp/) is a good example of this type of service.

All these services offer the e-business two things: The capability to sell a product or service to a targeted customer and the opportunity to create a strong relationship with them.

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