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October 28, 1999

Mercantec Launches SoftCart 5.0 & Value-Added Services

By CBR Staff Writer

Mercantec Inc will announce version 5.0 of its core SoftCart web store builder on Monday together with its plans to branch out into value-added services in an attempt to get more small to medium-sized merchants to sign up to its service. Mercantec was one of the original application services providers, the current hot-button item that every software company seemingly wants to become, because it has never shipped a packaged piece of software in its four years of existence, says CEO Andrew Parker.

However, it hasn’t ever really positioned itself as such, although that may change soon. Mercantec’s model is to use ISPs to host and sell on its software and services, with Mercantec charging the ISPs on a monthly basis, who in turn charge the merchants monthly.

It is now trying to promote what it calls perpetual commerce through a new web site called Merchant Connection, which aims to provide merchants with services such as payment technology and processing. Mercantec has struck three deals, ClearCommerce for the technology, Paymentech as the payment processor and Bank One as the back-end financial institution.

The services will be free to Mercantec merchants and the merchant just has to sign up for them. Mercantec will configure the gateway and send them an email when they are ready to start doing financial transaction through SoftCart. Mercantec has also signed agreements with 1800 Database for access to its database of product images and for online payroll management.

The company has plans next year to launch a site it’s calling Shopper Resources, which aims to point online shoppers towards other stores using the Mercantec software – and there are 10,000 of them at the moment, says VP marketing Harriet Bury. This, she says’ creates the idea of perpetual commerce, with each store generating sales, or at least inquiries for the other. The service will include a gift agent, where people can not only pick gifts they want, but using a slide bar indicate how much they want that gift, the ability to apply for a credit card online, and loan processing for mortgages and cars. No deals have been signed with partners yet, but the company is talking to a number of companies to flesh out the proposed site.

The new cut of SoftCart features a new way of tracking not only how affiliates are doing, but also how the actual web site’s sales are doing; the ability to configure discount programs and a new, simpler to use store-building wizard, according to Bury.

Mercantec has been forced to take its business abroad, says Parker, mainly by the obvious appeal of a rapidly-expanding European marketplace and the fact that last year it secured export rights to sell its software outside the US despite it using strong encryption. It has approval to sell software using keys of up to 4,096 bits in length. It has distribution deals in Europe and Asia, and gets the distributor to do the local translation and set up the back-end payment systems. It has been translated into eight languages so far and the international versions of SoftCart 5.0 will get to market late in the fourth quarter and early next year. The US version will be ready by mid- November, having been in testing for a while. Mercantec’s deals range from $5,000 to $1m, the later being multi-year deal and although their may be some small up-front set-up fees, the vast majority of its revenues come on a month-by-month basis.

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