On-line shopping communities to benefit businesses

SMEs (small and medium sized businesses) affiliated with either the National Bank of Canada or CIBC will soon be able to take part in those institutions’ respective, new on-line shopping communities spearheaded in conjunction with SureFire Commerce Inc. – an e-business solutions provider.

With goals of offering their merchant clientele with a full-service commercial Web presence, both banks have drummed up their own on-line, one-stop shopping communities – ShopCIBC.com and BuyItOnline.com – along with separate credit card affiliations. ShopCIBC.com will be made available to that bank’s merchants and its estimated four million Visa customers, while National Bank has accrued the partnership of MasterCard through BuyItOnline.com and will offer similar services to its estimated 75,000 SMEs.

“Our solutions set are ideal for banks or institutions with a large number of SMEs who want to do e-business,” said Mitchell Garber, senior vice-president of business development for SureFire Commerce. “These two deals are different to some extent. The National Bank does not own a private portal so they’ve teamed up with BuyItOnline.com.”

In addition to hosting, secure transaction processing, store-building software, and full technical support, merchants will also have access to a call support centre, affiliate marketing and co-op advertising programs, e-coupons, back office reporting and fulfilment tools.

“There’s a trusted relationship between small merchants and banks,” Garber said. “This is the ideal solution for a small merchant, it’s affordable, and all the elements of an on-line e-business suite are handled for you. We provide all the services.”

For its efforts, SureFire will earn a monthly fee from all merchants who sign on, along with a transaction fee based on the percentage of gross sales. Both BuyItOnline.com and ShopCIBC.com is scheduled for launch prior to Christmas.

“This initiative underscores CIBC’s commitment to small and medium sized Canadian businesses,” explained Christine Croucher, CIBC’s executive vice-president, card products, collections and merchant card services in Toronto. “At the same time, our cardholders are asking for a truly Canadian on-line shopping experience.”

Joe Green, an analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto, said the growth of home-grown e-marketplaces is inevitable north of the border.

“For SMEs to be successful and to take full advantage of e-commerce and e-business, we’re going to see the rapid development of e-marketplaces in Canada, the same as we have in the United States,” Green said. “Numerous banks have announced their respective strategies in recent months to that end. But it is too soon to know if one or two of these exchanges will float to the top.”

Jean Robillard, media relations and financial consultation officer for the National Bank of Canada in Montreal, said the BuyItOnline.com initiative will enable his institution to make e-commerce viable for its merchant customers.

“This deal will complete an earlier deal we had with both SureFire and the CIBC earlier this year (to offer SMEs e-commerce solutions),” he explained. “We also wanted to expand our capture of MasterCard transactions on-line and we hope our clients will experience better and easier access to those e-commerce solutions, without having to deal with the inherent back-office problems.”

For Garber, these new deals help validate SureFire’s business model.

“We’re an e-commerce company with an operating profit that is revenue recurrent,” he explained. “You’re going to see consistency in our business model as we go after telcos, banks, ISPs. We’ll pursue similar deals with companies that have high Internet traffic.”