Giving power to the e-people is easy

Giving power to the e-people is easy

As much as the media tries to tell us otherwise, online shopping is about saving money. Convenience, schmenience.

The surest way for a Web merchant to attract customers is rock-bottom pricing.

It's an expectation only reinforced by the merchants themselves, who keep finding new ways of delivering on that promise.

Online auctioneers like eBay and name-your-own-price sites like Priceline have become passe among techno-trendspotters, but the "group buy" is providing more grist for the media mills.

The new sites vying for attention in this space are Accompany and Mercata, which arrange selling sprees on merchandise that gets cheaper as more buyers pile on.

In a story by Forbes magazine, Penelope Patsuris was optimistic about the nascent niche's chances.

Market efficiencies

"There's no doubt this new channel will turn up the heat on the market efficiencies that the Internet already demands," she concluded.

The sites may have the same goal, but operationally they differ. Accompany moves products for other retailers, and Mercata buys, stores and ships products itself.

If one approach proves successful, herd mentality could spell serious trouble for the other, Patsuris speculated.

After pointing out this difference, the story gave considerably more play to Accompany, despite the glamour factor of Mercata's founder, Paul Allen, who was never mentioned in the story.

Only a cynic would read into a footnote to the story: "Rich Karlgaard, the publisher of Forbes magazine, is a shareholder and director of Accompany."

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