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ICOMS unbundles e-commerce

An e-commerce service called Internet Commerce Services launches to let Web merchants run their own Web storefront or outsource it to another vendor.

An e-commerce service called Internet Commerce Services (ICOMS) launched today to handle payment and orders for Web merchants, letting them run their own Web storefront or outsource it to another vendor.

ICOMS says its MerchantTrax service, which charges a fee for each transaction, is the first to unbundle Web hosting from credit card and order processing.

"We are offering to merchants a way to commerce-enable their Web site without having to invest in technology or hardware or links to credit card processors," said Cliff Conneighton, ICOMS chief executive. "We focus solely on the order-management process and leave you free to do the rest the way you want to."

The company also announced agreements with Web developer USWeb Utopia, merchant software vendor Open Market, and Web hosting service BBN.

ICOMS will take over transaction processing for six Open Market customers as the software firm exits the order processing business. USWeb Utopia will resell the MerchantTrax service; BBN will make referrals.

Some of the customers already using the new MerchantTrax service include Bloomberg, Boston Museum of Science, Houghton-Mifflin Company, Meta Tools, Newbury Comics, Panasonic Interactive, Crescent Division of Progress Software, and Random House.

In addition to handling credit card payments, MerchantTrax also can register buyers, calculate tax and shipping charges, integrate with fulfillment and logistics providers, handle refunds, manage subscriptions, authorize downloads of digital goods, and report for buyers and merchants. It also has created a "shopping basket" for buyers.

MerchantTrax can accept purchase orders as payment and will soon be able to handle coupons.

Conneighton figures ICOMS needs 1,000 customers to reach profitability, a goal by the end of 1998.

ICOMS will market its MerchantTrax to catalog companies, organizations that want to commerce-enable existing Web sites, and foreign firms that want to sell in the United States.

Pricing includes a $2,500 set-up fee and per-transaction charges as low as 25 cents on large volumes.