Taking the Express lane to commerce

Any merchant who can work a browser can now have a fully-functional commerce-enabled Web site, according to nGage Electronic Commerce.

The company’s new on-line store creation tool, Commerce Express, allows businesses to create, update and modify their own on-line catalogues. And because the application works remotely over the Web, only a browser and Internet access are needed.

Using a point-and-click interface, clients can build their own catalogues on-line by entering their store information into the templates provided, and uploading images and logos stored on their hard drives.

“The process to do that is basically no different than selecting a file in Microsoft Word,” said Kelly O’Bray, sales and marketing manager for nGage Electronic Commerce.

“They just click on a browse button, select it, and the other stuff happens automatically for them.”

Clients must set up a merchant ID through their bank in order to make a valid e-commerce site, which is then connected to the nGage service, O’Bray explained. This ensures that when someone makes a purchase, a credit authorization is done in real-time at the bank, then a digital receipt is presented to the buyer.

“At that same time an e-mail goes out to the merchants saying they have a new order. They then log onto the system and marks it as shipped. That’s when the settlement of the transaction appears to the bank, and it uses the pre-authorization and moves the money directly to the merchant’s account,” he said.

Leta Beyak, assistant manager of University of Manitoba Bookstore in Winnipeg, is testing Commerce Express to sell textbooks to students.

“We still sell books in the traditional way, first and foremost. But there is competition out there, and the [Web] offers convenience.”

Also, with the increasing trend towards upgrading skills, remote classes, correspondence courses and ‘virtual universities,’ more and more students are finding it difficult to buy their books at the campus bookstore in person, she said. And because it is run by the university, it can cater to the very specific needs of the student body and its areas of study.

Adrian Shorter, senior product manager for e-commerce at Calgary-based Telus Advertising Services Inc., is reselling the product for use in on-line Yellow Pages ads.

One thing that attracted Telus to Commerce Express was because it is designed specifically for Canadian clients, he said. Currently most products available for e-commerce today are designed for an American market, with American payment systems, he said.

“[These products are] fine if you use a cybercast socket, but even that only works with some Canadian banks. It’s hard enough now for businesses, in some sense, dealing with the financial institution industry as it is, without forcing them to have to make that change in their banking relationships.”

According to Shorter, another reason Telus went with Commerce Express was because of the price.

“We looked at a lot of different solutions: the Microsofts, the IBMs, the Oracles. And for the most part these are very expensive to install,” he said.

The fact that Commerce Express allows a cost-effective alternative to expensive on-site commerce packages is one of its main selling points, O’Bray agreed.

“Basically, any merchant can be up and running with a fully-functional commerce-enabled Web site, using the same technology and system as Disney, AT&T and some of the largest companies in the world that spend millions on their Web presence and commerce capabilities. And they can do it all for under $3,000 a year.”

Fees for Commerce Express (www.ngage.net) start at $150 per month, plus a $50 per month hosting fee and transaction charges ranging from $1.25 to $0.75, depending on volume.

nGage Electronic Commerce in Winnipeg is at 1-888-783-5555.