FedEx helps businesses online

FedEx helps businesses online

Hoping to attract new customers, Federal Express announced last week it will launch a service to help small-to-medium sized businesses build online stores.

Scheduled to launch later this year, the service will include Web design and hosting, catalogue development, back-office management, real-time payment processes, customer service and integrated FedEx shipping and tracking. It will be offered through an alliance with Orbit Commerce, an e-business services provider in Chicago.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. Pricing hasn't been determined, but according to FedEx spokeswoman Sally Davenport, "will be competitive with other solutions [companies] may be looking at." The announcement by the shipping giant comes as it and rival United Parcel Service of America continue to move beyond being just transportation companies.

"We're seeing this from other third-party logistics service providers who are getting into the [e-commerce] market," said John Fontanella, an analyst at AMR Research. "FedEx is trying to keep the franchise alive and growing in all of e-commerce." As for UPS, in February it announced a new subsidiary, e-Ventures, that is researching and developing new businesses to handle the entire back-end fulfilment operations of small-to-midsize dot-com companies.

UPS spokesman Steve Holmes said his company offers a service similar to the one announced by FedEx, but does so a bit differently.

"Our strategy is to partner with companies like AT&T, IBM and iCAT, which offer businesses [online store] solutions that build in UPS functionality in what they offer," Holmes said.

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