Macromedia Contributes Plan to Build a Better eBay Store

By Dan Muse | Posted November 02, 2004

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The great thing about having an eBay Store is being part of a network that includes millions of buyers. The downside is that the stores themselves don't necessarily offer the professional look and feel you want for your small business. That fact is apparently not lost on eBay, and — to help make its stores as polished as they are prevalent— the e-commerce giant is getting a little help from its friends.

In a move designed to allow small businesses to develop and maintain more professional and customizable electronic storefronts, eBay and Macromedia yesterday announced a partnership in which the companies will offer a special $99 version of the Macromedia Contribute Web site development and publishing platform.

Contribute 3 for eBay is designed to let businesses that either already have or planning to add an eBay presence to go beyond what has been available through eBay's forms-based tools. However, even though the tools and the end results are more sophisticated, the goal is to make building a site easy for nontechnical users. Also, thanks to Web services technology, businesses that have both an eBay store and a separate standalone Web site can manage both virtual stores through Contribute 3.

First PayPal, Now eBay Stores
Macromedia has an established relationship with the eBay. It announced a partnership more than a year ago to integrate Contribute with PayPal Merchant Tools (PayPal is owned by eBay). The results of that relationship were an integrated shopping cart service, a Buy Now button and other business services and tools such as instant payment notification, shipping, subscription services, tracking and inventory management tools.

But today's announcement goes much further to link the two companies. According to Erik Larson, director of product management at Macromedia, the special version of Contribute allows eBay users to create custom pages from Contribute using 800 templates and a WYSIWYG interface. The templates are a starting point, but users can personalize them for their business with customized branding that reflects the look and feel of their business, he said. "Right now they would have to do that through a forms-based interface on eBay."

It is also significant, Larson said, how Contribute 3 for eBay combines the power of a large transaction-processing infrastructure with a content management system aimed small-business users. "Because Contribute is not only an authoring system, but also a publishing platform, you can insert features in the store and link to eBay. You can extend your look and feel and your Web presence."


Contribute 3 for eBay
Macromedia claims that creating a personalized Web store design based on one of Contribute 3's 800 templates is as easy as working with a word processor.

While it's not unusual for a business to have both an eBay Store and a separate, and perhaps richer, Web storefront, "maintaining two Web presences is not all that common yet," Larson said. "Two things are missing. You need an API to extend things out. But even if that API exists, implementing it is difficult. Contribute 3 hides the complexities."

The complexity Larson refers to involves the integration needed make it possible to have customers shop on a Web site created and hosted on non-eBay servers, yet still connect transparently to eBay for processing the sale. "A customer would find item in your Web site, but buy it on eBay. They would handle the transaction. eBay offers a lot of features in terms of tracking transactions." However, to the buyer, it's all one seamless process.

Could Be Big ... If eBay Wants
Eric Peterson, an analyst at JupiterResearch (which shares the same parent company as this publication) said he is impressed by the potential of the partnership. "Most people who have eBay stores don't know the nuances of HTML. Allowing those users to leverage a product like Contribute 3 for $99 is a pretty significant announcement. The adoption curve will depend on if eBay can get people to buy it."

eBay, though, appears to have motivation to drive that adoption. "My suspicion is that eBay wants to increase the breadth of its base and improve the general professionalism of their stores," Peterson said.

Peterson pointed out that this isn't for the person who sells one or two things on eBay, but it could be a welcome option for a small business that wants to take its e-commerce operations to a higher level. "Macromedia is providing easy access to eBay's API. Users get the best of both worlds — it's a quality and quantity thing," Peterson said.

And you can't overlook the benefit of tying something as unique as your branding with something as ubiquitous as eBay stores. "Hey, we are always harping on people to have consistent branding," Peterson said. Now you can not only have access to millions of buyers through eBay, but "you can build a nice Web site with consistent branding."

This product "bridges a gap."

Where and When
Contribute 3 for eBay will be availabe only for Microsoft Windows and is expected to ship in mid-November. Existing Contribute 3 users can add the eBay Store features by downloading a free extension.

Dan Muse is executive editor of internet.com's Small Business Channel and EarthWeb's Networking & Communications Channel.

Story appeared original on ECommerce-Guide.com.

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