The Wall Street Journal points to some interesting research on "stickiness" for web sites. As with most things web, the concept of stickiness (what the researchers are calling "cognitive lock-in") really has nothing to do with technology or economics, but with human behavior. Of course, this is really one of the oldest strategies in retailing. If you make the retail experience comfortable for the customer, the customer is unlikely to go somewhere else, even if the price is better elsewhere (Johnson, Bellman, Lohse 2000). What's particularly interesting is that this behavior continues even when the ability to compare prices becomes almost effortless (Smith, Brynjolfsson 2001). My favorite quote from the article: "Ultimately it's human behavior -- not technological bells and whistles -- that determines how money gets spent"
Perhaps the most intersting aspect of the WSJ article is the fact that links to the original research and researchers were included at the end. I hope this is not just a one-shot deal.