It's one thing to get all excited about the Web," says Karen Rizzo, marketing manager at Kryptonite, a manufacturer of bicycle locks in Canton, Mass. "But whether or not it makes sound business sense to be on the Web is a completely different matter."

Rizzo knows that typical Internet users are upscale, well-educated young men, like her bike-lock customers, but she has postponed selling on the Web until she can pinpoint her costs and calculate the potential return. After all, a simple Web site can easily cost thousands of dollars to develop. Equipping a company for online sales transactions and customer interaction can cost considerably more.

Kryptonite, which sells through distributors, tested the waters with a small site that offers press clips about the company. Visitors who request product or company information get it through the regular mail. "We can track how many people ask for information and whether their requests generate business," says Rizzo, who budgeted $10,000 for the site's first year. Her next step will be to interact with customers online by hosting e-mail focus groups about emerging products.

Rizzo expects that the extra research time will pay off. "Lots of companies establish a Web site and then pull the plug, because they didn't anticipate how to do it well, and the costs and time demands for setting it up and maintaining it got out of hand," she says.