Championing the electronic-commerce cause in an environment wary of costly innovations is a risky business.
Thus, when Western Australian developer OpenSearch decided to marshal its forces around a new electronic-commerce solution, it did so knowing that its "maintain-it-yourself" virtual store would have to be a solution that will appeal to smaller businesses.
But, as most e-commerce applications developed thus far are way beyond the reach of small and medium businesses, OpenSearch had to employ the latest technology in order to bring about a solution that would be economical, simple, and powerful enough to warrant its use in the lower echelons of the business world.
"We wanted everyone to have equal opportu-nities at accessing the booming e-commerce industry, [as we believe that] doing business on the Internet is highly efficient and cost effective," OpenSearch's technical director Jeff Loo commented.
"Smaller businesses should not be left out of the e-commerce age or we'll see more and more monopolistic representation on the Internet," he said.
Consequently, a mixture of OpenSearch's egalitarian approach to technology and sound business acumen produced OpenMalls, an electronic-commerce package that, according to officials, allows small-and-medium businesses to create and maintain e-commerce-enabled online stores.
"OpenMalls is a database solution that allows our clients to create their Web shop using only their browser," Chee Wong, technical marketing executive at OpenSearch, told ARN.
"In that way it is highly portable, since as long as organisations have an Internet connection and a browser, they can make changes and add new things to their online store."
Once the store is created, shoppers should be able to browse the store, select items and pay by submitting credit card details using an online payment system provided via a payment gateway in the banking network.
OpenMalls comes with a "full range of customisation options" that will allow businesses to choose or change their payment or postage options, as well as their graphics and page layout through what the company claims is the "first true wysiwig HTML editing system available".
An issue that the organisation has not resolved yet is how OpenMalls will be marketed.
Wong would like to see the sales going through distribution channels and especially Internet service providers who could offer customers hosting, administration and design services.
And, with IDC Australia predicting an e-commerce boom within the next five years, VARs should certainly consider OpenSearch's virtual mall a good bet.
Currently in beta testing, OpenMalls will be available to the public this month with prices determined according to the number of items that virtual stores will be selling.