Accounting software vendor Pastel has managed to differentiate itself in a crowded space with the launch of a business-to-business e-commerce inventory solution for SMEs that integrates with its accounting packages.
With its accounting software GST ready 18 months ago the South African developer has had time to create an e-commerce solution that will differentiate itself from the price conscious MYOB and Quicken dominated market.
`This is an e-commerce solution that sits side-by-side with our accounting package. Usually businesses have to maintain their accounting software separately from their inventory but we wanted to make a seamless upload. There is no need for Pastel users to recapture orders placed via their electronic store. At any time they can synchronise with their site by connecting to the Internet and pushing a button,' explained Kevin Lief, managing director of Pastel.
Lief also heaps accolades on the integrated solutions ability to identify specific customer price lists and particular customer arrangements such as volume discounts.
`Customers see their own specific prices on the e-commerce site, just as if the order was being captured direct into the accounting package.'
Yet with SMEs wary of e-commerce because of price inhibitions and their lack of any in-house IT skills, features alone will not compel them to buy a B2B solution.
`SMEs still have to go back to ISPs to host the site. But because they don't have any economies of scale it will be quite expensive for them. So we became the host,' said Lief.
In this capacity Pastel established Planetpastel.com. The cost for a small business getting its e-commerce site hosted here is spread across Pastel's 150,000 users worldwide explained Lief, making it a much better value proposition.
Yet Lief hopes PlanetPastel will become more than simply a host site. He envisages it as a complete portal for the small business and has set up Pastel to deal with a high level of traffic with extra servers and skilled technicians.
`Our goal is to make PlanetPastel the definitive business information source, shopping mall and business park for small-to-medium sized enterprises around the world.'
To this end there will be three elements to the site. The shopping mall will focus on retail businesses, and the business park on Pastel users wishing to give existing customers a password and conduct B2B commerce. Both these sections will offer a range of services from simple product display, to order entry facilities and secure online payment capabilities.
The third element of PlanetPastel will be content, designed to bring traffic to the site. This includes expert advice and information on business issues such as the GST, labour legislation and legal matters. More general current affairs, sport, entertainment and weather will also be pro-vided. And for the channel this represents an unheard of opportunity, good margins on a continual basis with no service hassles.
`Resellers sell the e-commerce solution and the idea of being hosted on the Internet. They can work it as a subscription-based service where every time a customer renews their subscription we'll give the reseller a rebate.'
There will be no distribution hassles either, with the e-commerce solution downloadable for free from the Web in a simple plug-and-play format from the 7th of March. Resellers will get a commission on all the downloads.
Lief considers this a unique service so resellers are in a position to differentiate themselves in a market characterised by similar products and prices.