All over the world, companies are amassing huge amounts of customer information in such systems. The astute ones are using it to fine-tune their business processes and deliver a better service or product than their rivals.
The really astute ones have realised that their existing customers have other needs too. To this end they are adding another level of stickiness to their offerings - chat rooms, auction sites, news, online share trading - the list is endless.
Through these value-adding offerings, certain companies are creating Web communities or portals through which they hope to eventually serve customers with everything they need.
The firms best suited to win this "Battle of the Portals", as UK Internet guru Thomas Power describes it, are the ISPs and search engines that have built up huge registration and membership lists via the Web.
This month, E-Business Review takes a close look at the "portalisation" strategy of Freeserve - the UK's leading Internet service provider.
Freeserve is a couple of years behind its heavyweight rivals like Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft - but is assembling a marketing database that it will use to make itself an berportal, the channel through which UK surfers access all their Web desires. It thus becomes a very attractive prospect to Internet advertisers and other e-merchants. Not a bad e-business model, really.
Freeserve is now rapidly becoming as well known a brand in the UK as its parent company, Dixons. For the lowdown on the way to find a new online brand for your organisation, take a look at this month's feature on branding.