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Seller's Market

Online sales made easy

It takes more than passion and an HTML editor to be an e-tailer. Entrepreneurs face high costs in getting stores up and running online. However, a June 2000 survey by SmartAge.com and Intelliquest showed that 77 percent of businesses spent less than $5,000 to build their Web sites and that 76 percent of respondents found "expert advice" to be the most valuable information online. That's where "e-marketplaces" come in to fill the needs of tech-inexperienced entrepreneurs.

IDC defines an e-marketplace as "a third party that establishes itself as a community builder where buyers, suppliers and third parties can exchange information and conduct business via a shared catalog, an open auction site or an exchange." IDC predicts e-marketplaces will become major points of entry into online commerce for entrepreneurs.

Some e-marketplaces, such as BizProLink.com and SmartAge.com, have already opened their virtual doors. Various services provided by e-marketplaces usually include setting up home pages with e-commerce capabilities, and assistance with advertising and promotion. For example, a five-page Supplier Storefront with BizProLink costs $450 per month. Web site hosting, management and incubator-type services are also showing up. A custom-built Web site with an e-commerce package starts at $2,499 with a $170 monthly fee at SmartAge. These offerings cater to less tech-savvy entrepreneurs and brick-and-mortar businesses that are looking to take advantage of the Web.

Smart Slogans
The appeal of the slew of new e-marketplaces is best summed up by their catch phrases:

Biztro: "The best way to run your business."

eBay Business Exchange: "The Small Business Marketplace."

Microsoft bCentral: "Drive your business forward."

ShopNow.com: "More ways to shop and sell."

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This article was originally published in the December 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Seller's Market.

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