When asked at American Banker's most recent Best Practices in Retail Financial Services Conference to describe their strategic goals, executives of CDNow and barnesandnoble.com said essentially the same thing: building relationships with our customers, differentiating our service by one-to-one marketing, and creating value for customers while dealing with them from a distance.

Many of us are bound by the traditional view of relationships. The customer comes into the store and retailers provide customized service, such as calling them by name and offering products tailored to their needs.

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