What Works on the Web

While proven winners such as online coupons, electronic credit applications, and local weather and traffic reports have become staples of many rental Web sites, some companies are adding new customer-friendly features.

Here is a look a few of the better rental advances in Web site content:

* Online ordering. A must for any company hoping to truly achieve e-commerce.

* A "Success Stories" page. Real-life reports, including photos, describing how the rental company helped customers solve problems and complete their job more efficiently.

* A "Friends" page. A list of links to the sites of local contractors, handymen and suppliers.

* A virtual tour. Not familiar with the company? Click here and you'll find a brief company history, equipment offerings and branch locations.

* "Ask the Doctor." An interactive service where customers can start an e-mail dialog with a company mechanic about malfunctioning equipment.

* A virtual shopping cart. Customers perusing inventory can place an order by clicking and dragging items into their own cart.

Most of the above ideas were utilized by sites entered in our second annual Best Rental Center Web Site Contest. As of press time, we were still tabulating votes that will determine the winners, so stay tuned.

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