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Gateway opens purchase site to institutional buyers

Gateway is now offering institutional customers a Web service to track product purchases, a move that rivals similar service from Dell.

In an effort to boost repeat business, Gateway is now offering institutional customers a Web service to track product purchases, a move that rivals similar service from Dell.

The PC maker has launched Esource, customized Web sites for large institutions, educational buyers and corporate customers, according to Mike Mata, vice president of e-commerce and business development for Gateway's business group.

The move may be overdue. While Gateway has been individually customizing Web sites, Dell has for some time been offering its Premier Page service, which speeds up the process much like Esource.

The Esource initiative will basically automate the process of creating specific Web sites which link to Gateway's database of computer and software products, according to Mata. The sites, known as extranets, will show customers the range of products their companies have standardized on, and allow authorized employees to choose and order computers.

"We have over the last couple of years, been building Web sites for customers the old fashioned way--we created customized sites for them," Mata said. "We really stepped back and looked at a way to provide this type of personalized site for all repeat customers."

There is no additional cost or minimum buying requirement associated with Esource, he said. Users will be able to track their order status and history, and communicate with the services and account team assigned to the customer. In January, Gateway will add a wizard which will allow customers to reconfigure the preferences on the site themselves, he said.

"With the version that we will have in January, we will have a wizard front end which will allow the customers to do it themselves with greater ease," Mata said.

Gateway has made its name by selling computers directly to individual buyers over the Internet or phone, but the company has lately been trying to bring attention to what it says is the balance the company has actually struck between business and consumer customers.

"About half of Gateway revenues come from the non-consumer. Over the last couple of quarters, bulk business and educational institutions have become a very important part of our business," he said. "While we've enjoyed great success, we really think that we can greatly accelerate that with things like Esources."