Buyer Aware

Extra Credit

Internet commerce is no longer some hazy concept on the horizon-it's reality. If you want to be able to process orders electronically on your Web site, take a look at AT&T's Secure Buy Service. Not only does SecureBuy add credit card processing capabilities to your site, but it also offers sales-tracking tools and features to create a more secure environment for online shoppers.

SecureBuy's software features accept and track orders, calculate U.S. sales tax and shipping charges, and authorize and process credit card purchases through high-speed links to leading credit card processing services. Because secure transactions are just as important to merchants as to customers, AT&T will cover the first $50 of an online purchase made by an unauthorized user (if the purchase is made with an AT&T Universal Visa or MasterCard). If AT&T loses an order, the merchant is credited for the amount (up to $595 per month). SecureBuy also offers access to management reports to measure a Web site's success and software to create online catalogs or product pages.

A one-year plan for current AT&T long-distance business members costs $500 for registration, plus $395 to cover monthly service charges and per transaction fees. To sign up for AT&T's SecureBuy Service, call (800) 7-HOSTIN or check out the Web site at http://www.securebuy.com

Few know it, but small companies have always had the option to order computers straight from the big PC manufacturers. No matter now, though, because small businesses will likely become more familiar with this process, thanks to the growing trend among PC makers to sell directly to customers. IBM, for instance, ships some built-to-order models to buyers straight from the factory, and Compaq Computer is working on plans to offer factory-direct shipping as well.

"Eventually, companies hope to emulate [computer] mail order firms by targeting [customers] through a more direct sales approach," says Steve Baker, a senior analyst specializing in distribution channels with International Data Corp., a technology research firm in Framingham, Massachusetts.

PC companies are moving in this direction to learn how to more effectively serve small business, Baker says. Some manufacturers feel existing retail and reseller channels are neither selling this segment the appropriate products nor putting enough emphasis on small companies' business. PC makers feel that, in some cases, they may be able to serve this market better.

Some say a move like this could also lead to lower prices. However, Baker cautions that in addition to getting the most bang for their buck, businesses-especially those without in-house technical expertise-should give serious consideration to companies that can supply excellent products and services to best manage their information technology needs.

Contact Sources

AT&T Corp., (201) 331-4765, wmakoujy@attmail.com;

Compaq Computer Corp., (800) 345-1518, http://www.compaq.com

Forrester Research Inc., (617) 497-7090, http://www.forrester.com

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This article was originally published in the July 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Buyer Aware.

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