According to research from IDC, there are approximately 5.7 million small and medium-size businesses connected to the Internet, but only a fraction of these organizations are conducting full-fledged e-business over the Web. Kurant, a San Francisco-based provider of e-commerce software, believes it can tip the scales in favor of smaller e-business initiatives.
This week Kurant released the latest iteration of its award-winning StoreSense software. StoreSense 5.5 enables a small business — whether it sells products, services, or a combination of both — to readily conduct almost any type of transaction-based business online.
With StoreSense 5.5, small businesses can not only build a Web store to sell products, but also leverage their Web site as a means to conduct and manage all back-end business transactions, such as customer invoicing and recurring bill payment, whether the transactions are generated online or off.
This focus on transactions gives service-based businesses access to integrated e-business technology. Any small business, regardless of what it sells or how it sells, can reap the benefits of conducting e-business online.
Helen Chan, Yankee Group senior analyst for small and medium business strategies, said Kurant distinguishes itself by offering a solution that helps a small business complete the entire sales process — all the way to the back office.
“The key is for vendors to provide solutions that help small businesses understand the extensibility of their Web site as not only a Web store, but also as a conduit to tie back to the back office business functions,” Chan said. “With StoreSense 5.5, Kurant demonstrates that the company gets this.”
StoreSense 5.5 delivers a comprehensive solution designed to provide retailers and service firms with a full range of e-business functionality, from front office Web site and Web store capabilities to back office inventory management, supply chain communication and accounting system integration.
New functionality allows service-based businesses, such as consultants, lawyers, or accountants, to bill customers and collect payments online. Using new order-entry features in the StoreSense Order Manager, small businesses can create invoices for products or services independent of their StoreSense storefront, which customers can then view and pay online.
In order to accomplish these types of business tasks, Kurant developed new architecture for StoreSense 5.5 based on an innovative new tagging language — dubbed StoreSense Markup Language (SSML) — to help small businesses create more robust storefront designs.
Back office integration can be set up through StoreSense 5.5 with most 2003 editions of QuickBooks software, which allows for the two-way transfer of critical business data between a small business’s online store and its desktop financial system. Kurant first attained this level of back office integration between StoreSense and QuickBooks in November 2002. At the time, Curtis Pierce, Kurant chief executive officer, said the move to team up with Intuit was a natural for small businesses.
“Many small and medium-size firms have built their businesses on QuickBooks,” Pierce said. “It’s only natural that when they move online, they look for a solution that will work with QuickBooks, not against it.”
The move makes it easier to build an online presence using existing QuickBooks data that can be imported into StoreSense 5.5. A StoreSync Wizard allows small businesses to establish an online store, then build it automatically using the business, product and customer information from QuickBooks company files. Once the online store is up and running, small businesses can transfer critical business data, such as sales receipts and customer records, from StoreSense to QuickBooks, automatically updating their QuickBooks database. The exchange of data allows small businesses to not only increase the efficiency and productivity of their back office systems, but also to deploy and manage the very latest e-business technologies within the familiar QuickBooks environment.
In addition, StoreSense 5.5 offers a variety of enhanced marketing and merchandizing features. The new Promotions function offers options, such as quantity discounts, and gives small businesses greater flexibility to create customized products and services. An improvement to StoreSense’s product management, search and categorization functions enables small businesses to present their products and services in a way that encourages repeat purchases.
Dell Wolfensparger, vice president of business development at Dynamic Concepts, a Kurant channel partner, said businesses have been waiting for this level of enterprise-class computing to be made available to the SMB market.
“Until now, enterprise-class e-business solutions have been designed for larger companies, with their ample budgets and IT departments. The SMB market, on the other hand, has been waiting for enterprise features on a SMB budget,” Wolfensparger said.
Kurant markets StoreSense to small and medium-sized business through a series of strategic partnerships with larger corporations, including banks, financial service providers and other professional service companies. These partners have existing business relationships with more than five million small and medium-sized business and serve as a channel for the delivery of StoreSense software. Some of Kurant’s existing partners include First Data Merchant Services, Homestead Technologies, Paymentech, S1 Corporation, and Website Pros.
Because StoreSense 5.5 is offered through resellers on a monthly subscription basis, pricing varies. Manufacturer’s suggested retail pricing starts at $49.95 a month for a Standard Edition store containing up to 50 products. StoreSense 5.5 is currently available from Kurant’s reseller partners throughout the U.S. and Canada.
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