When Kasparov.com launched an online library of multimedia chess lessons by the masters, it knew that half its audience lived outside the United States. And CEO Anthony Milazzo quickly realized how silly it would look to customers in Italy to be billed $10.99 one month and $10.66 the next for the identical service. So when E4X Inc., a New York company with Israeli roots, offered to handle the site's currency conversion, as well as add an E-commerce engine and credit-card capabilities at virtually no cost, he jumped at the chance.
For a small site like Kasparov.com, "what E4X does is just what we need," Milazzo says. "The world is getting used to speaking in English and paying in dollars, and it may not be completely necessary for us to accept foreign currencies. But we want our customers to feel comfortable."
That may well be true for Kasparov.com, but E4X clearly is looking to dominate a bigger market. Its product moved beyond seven beta sites to full launch this week. "You only have one chance at credibility, but we feel comfortable it's stable and robust," says E4X CEO Yuval Tal.
E4X is offering a comprehensive payment solution for E-commerce Web sites that do business in international markets. Using the software, sites can post prices in U.S. dollars, then ask their customers what currency they wish to use for payment. If the answer is anything but dollars, E4X takes over, translating the prices into any of 22 currencies, collecting the payment from the customer, and then paying the site in dollars, just as though it were any other transaction. Even with tacking on a small markup on each transaction, E4X tries to keep its rates 0.5% below what a credit card would charge. Kasparov.com, meanwhile, "runs its business in dollars, quotes prices in dollars, and receives dollars in the exact amount as if the consumer were an American," Tal says.
The E4X system, which is hosted in Washington, D.C., is based on Oracle 8i and BEA WebLogic servers, connected to an application programming interface at the customer site that works with any NT or Unix environment.
While international sales are still in their infancy, the space presents a huge opportunity. Half of all online retailers get less than 5% of their revenues from international visitors, according to Forrester Research, and 63% plan to expand their global sales efforts this year.