Virtual shopping now idiot-proof

Virtual shopping now idiot-proof

Retailers no longer have an excuse to go without an Internet presence. An agreement between Lycos and Merchant is designed to offer retailers an idiot-proof path online, including a free spot in Lycos' new online shopping mall.

"A lot of small businesses are trying to set up online, and this allows them an easy way to do it," says Jim Ricciardelli, Lycos' director of electronic commerce channels. "We can either set up someone who has no online presence, or integrate what they are already doing."

As an inducement to join, Lycos offers merchants three months of free "rent", forgoing the $US99 monthly fee until November 1. But those who take advantage of Merchant's services get a better deal for the same price.

The company offers handholding services that take care of all the details. Merchants don't need to know about hosting or any other technical matter. They just need to fill orders as they arrive, according to Peter Demato, president of Merchant

Search engine placement, perhaps the most important aspect of the online retail process, is also handled by Merchant

"We've taken the 32 million sets of eyeballs that visit Lycos every day and turned them into a way to help small business," Demato says. "We provide merchants with the traffic, without having to pay hefty revenues."

It's not entirely free. Besides the $US99 fee that kicks in three months down the road, Lycos gets 15 per cent of all sales from the beginning. Demato claims this is a common markup.

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