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E-commerce made affordable

SMEs that want their websites to be e-commerce-enabled but are daunted by concerns of cost or complexity might like to read on.

A Perth company in the technology business has created a series of software programs that integrate with existing company web pages and customer databases to allow products to be sold online.

Cat Tech Ltd (short for Catalogue Technology) founder and technical director, Rob Mennie, said he was inspired to devise his shopping cart and online catalogue programs after a visit to the US two years ago to work on e-commerce issues for various government departments.

“Of all the people I met, no-one had a cheap catalogue solution – they were all hundreds of thousands of dollars. It seemed so easy to do, especially the way technology was going with Java (a programming language), and the more I looked at this, the more I couldn’t find anyone doing it,” Mr Mennie said.

Cat Tech was incorporated in August 2000 and work began in earnest to fashion the software in April 2001.

Venture capital firm BVA Capital provided direct financial input and facilitated investment from a number of private investors, and has taken two seats on Cat Tech’s board.

After discussions and testing with sections of the State Government about the programs’ application to the Government Electronic Market (GEM), transacting with GEM began in September last year. The software was officially launched to the broader business community last month.

Mr Mennie said that companies that wanted to participate fully in the GEM environment needed to provide catalogues that met the Open Buying on the Internet (OBI) standards. Two of Cat Tech’s three offerings are OBI-compliant.

The entry-level product simply allows SMES to publish a catalogue and sell online, though it is upgradeable to the other Cat Tech software.

Cat Tech’s products are designed to be tool kits for web developers

to build business-to-business e-commerce websites without having to directly learn the ins and outs of B2B transactions and Internet security.

Mr Mennie said when a web developer was building a website, he or she put tags in the web pages that told the Cat Tech software to perform various functions, such as retrieving product details or searching a catalogue.

“Web developers have been doing a fantastic job for a while building some really nice web pages but they haven’t learned anything about databases and transaction processing, and it’s an entirely different skill set,” he said.

“They’re good at interfacing and graphics and things like that, so it gives them the ability to continue doing that, but with the knowledge they can get transactions performed securely over the Internet.”

Cat Tech software is priced according to the number of items a business wants to sell online – the bigger the catalogue the higher the cost will be, within a range of $500 to $5,000.

Mr Mennie said those prices were for software licences alone. How-ever, even taking into account other costs, such as actual web development and hosting by an Internet Service Provider, it was possible to set up a fully e-commerce compliant catalogue for under $1,000.

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