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Firm shells out currency for the Net

As e-commerce activity accelerates around the globe, one Web firm is hoping that its latest product will become the de facto cash used for all online transactions.

As e-commerce activity accelerates around the globe, one Web firm is hoping that its latest product will become the de facto cash used for all online transactions.

The new currency, developed by New York- and London-based Beenz Company, is a marketing device targeting online retailers. Using "beenz" allows retailers to develop incentive plans and to strike deeper relationships with its customers, while offering users a form of credit that can be used by Netizens in any locale.

Essentially, beenz are items of credit that retailers offer to draw users into certain services or promotions that require user registration. For example, a site could offer a number of beenz in return for one's email address, and in return, the retailer could offer discounts for the user in exchange for a set amount of beenz. This, according to the company's Web site, is aimed at increasing traffic, and mining more detailed data among users.

Retailers sign up with the Beenz Company, which then manages the accounts and provides the technology that will allow users to redeem their beenz for goods and services.

"The beenz concept will reshape the international e-commerce landscape," Beenz Company chief executive Philip Letts said in a statement. "Beenz will erase international borders and will help Web sites to offer global beenz incentives to loyal customers. Twenty beenz in the United States equals twenty beenz in Europe, Australia, and anywhere there is access to the Internet."

Deepening customer relationships and cultivating more detailed user data is becoming a more central facet to doing business on the Web. E-commerce heavyweights such as Amazon have distinguished themselves for developing strong relationships with customers using email notices and incentive plans that have made first-time shoppers into repeat visitors and loyal customers.

Other types of Web companies, such as content-oriented sites, should use tactics incorporated by e-commerce sites to strengthen relationships with users, according to a study conducted by market research firm Jupiter Communications. By cultivating more detailed data, the study said, the information can allow the sites to serve more targeted advertisements or direct marketing emails.

And many content-related sites have begun using these tactics to strengthen ties with its users. The Go Network, for example, offers universal registration, personalization, and navigation, a concept Infoseek chief executive Harry Motro recently called "creeping personalization." This allows the user to customize his or her navigation preferences, and in return allows Go Network to serve more relevant ads and e-commerce offers.

Warner Bros. Online also recently launched its own online venture, dubbed ACMEcity, which allows users to build home pages on the site using authorized material from the firm's television, movie, music, and animation properties. In return, users submit information about themselves, which can then be used to serve targeted ads.

The Beenz Company has started signing on retailers such as U.S. firm iParty, which sells party goods; and London-based 21 Store, which sells computer gear.

Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and Exodus Communications are powering the Beenz Company's back-end operations.