eShop enters a difficult market, however. Most Web shopping malls have had difficulty attracting a regular client base, and online shopping in general hasn't taken off as its proponents had hoped.
eShop users must load special software onto their computer to use the site, which may deter some users. The software is free and can be downloaded from the Web site or obtained by calling an 800-number.
Merchants say the added software and the intelligent agents give their shopping environments a more user-friendly look and feel.
"Personal assistants set eShop Plaza apart from the rest of the online world," said Mike Farrace, VP-publication and electronic marketing at Tower Records.
eShop's Web mall has been long in development. The company, founded in 1992 by entrepreneur Matt Kursh, had originally bet on being part of AT&T's PersonaLink service, but that failed to materialize as planned.