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Mercent to help Guess sell on Amazon

E-commerce Web services specialist is helping retailers take the guesswork out of setting up shop on Amazon.

Mercent said Friday that it will handle e-commerce operations on Amazon.com for clothes maker Guess.

The deal marks the third time in recent weeks that Mercent has landed new business as a Web services intermediary (WSI) for an established consumer products vendor. The company recently signed similar deals with automotive accessories retailer Car Toys, and bath and body products maker Crabtree & Evelyn, to facilitate the use of Amazon's e-commerce tools.

Founded by former Amazon executives, Mercent sells e-commerce software that helps coordinate the exchange of product data between retail companies' enterprise software systems and 10 online shopping portals.

In addition to Amazon, the site around which most of the Seattle company's business revolves, Mercent also facilitates retailers' e-commerce optimization for sales on AOL InStore, Froogle, MSN Shopping, MySimon, Shopping.com and Yahoo Shopping, among others. The company is also developing technology for use with the Web services programs of search engine Google and Yahoo's Overture.

According to Mercent Chief Executive Eric Best--who sold his last company, Mindcorp, to Amazon in 1999--as the number of online sales channels increases for consumer products makers, there is a growing opportunity for companies dedicated to managing Web e-commerce services operations.

"It's becoming more difficult for retailers, catalogers and direct marketers to create unique brand and product awareness through online channels because of the competitive noise and because of the variety and complexity of the channels that they're dealing with," Best said.

Best said even the most tech-proficient retailers are facing an immense challenge as they increase the number of e-commerce sites through which they sell products. By turning to Mercent to help manage operations, he claims, companies will save both time and money.

"Does it make sense for a company to go out and build a custom (Web services) integration with Amazon?" he asked. "Maybe, but if you're adding nine additional shopping portals to the mix, and you have the ongoing maintenance requirements of compliance with their published standards, suddenly, it becomes a more daunting task."

Amazon representatives said they have been impressed by the way Mercent has helped retailers integrate and manage their online merchandising, inventory and pricing information. Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said his company will continue to encourage expansion of its Web services efforts through growth of its certified technology partner program, of which Mercent is a member.

"Mercent offers retailers a compelling option for integrating with, and harnessing, the power of the Amazon (Web) services platform," Herdener said. "We support companies like this, because it opens the door for even more retailers to leverage our platform for extending their online businesses."