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Before launching a personalization service on its start page last spring, Excite conducted in-house research and found that people who signed up for its personalized My Excite Channel returned five times more often than those without a personalized page.

In addition to increasing usage and repeat visits, however, Web sites use personalization features for a variety of reasons like better utilizing customer databases, delivering more targeted information and more expensive banner ads to users and ultimately selling more merchandise online.

Here's a sampling of how some sites are taking advantage of personalization services:

* Fingerhut (www.andysgarage.com) has been using Broadvision (www.broadvision.com) One-to-One to quickly build profiles of customers (based on their use of the site) and dynamically present "distressed" or "bargain" merchandise to regular customers that will be of interest to them.

* Art Technology Group (www.atg.com) counts Sun.com (www.sun.com) among the customers for its Dynamo Relationship Commerce suite. There, the software lets Sun profile its users and deliver targeted content from multiple operating units.

Another ATG customer is BMG Direct (www.bmgmusicservice.com), an online music club, which uses the software to build profiles of its users and target content to them. BMG learns members interests, purchase histories, and length of club membership through the software, then delivers targeted content, like promotions and concert lists, that users can act upon quickly.

* NetPerceptions' (www.netperceptions.com) best-known customer is Amazon.com (www.amazon.com), which tracks user behavior on its site and delivers book recommendations from users as well as targeted e-mails (allegedly sent by Chairman Jeff Bezos).

* NetPerceptions also serves ArtuFrame (www.artuframe.com), an art site, the CDnow (www.cdnow.com) music site, EOnline (www.eonline.com) and its video store, and Billboard's Talent Net (www.billboardtalentnet.com), which tries to link musical talent with performances.

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