How You Gonna Keep Them Down On The Farm? Don't Let Them Off

There's an irony for many companies that add E-commerce features to their sites in order to increase traffic: Sometimes, they end up losing eyes to the new feature. For those companies, Vitessa Corp. has unveiled its Merchant Exchange service.

Adding E-commerce to a site often means linking to sites such as Amazon or eToys. While surfers appreciate that access, once at the linked sites, the often don't go back to the starting point. Vitessa gives these surfers fewer reasons to leave to buy. It acts as an intermediary, taking E-commerce orders at a client's Web site and placing those orders with its network of 11 office-equipment, software, book, and music suppliers. Customers get their goods directly from Vitessa's suppliers.

"Unless a content site has the resources of an, most don't have a prayer of building a solid E-commerce infrastructure on their own," Vitessa CEO Dave Mullan says.

Vitessa boasts E-commerce features that are familiar to surfers but expensive to create, including virtual shopping carts, credit-card transaction processing, and fraud protection.

Kirsten Cloninger, an analyst with Cahners In-Stat, says that whenever a content provider can keep a customer on its site continuously, there is an "evident return on investment for that company, because customers will learn to associate the content site with being able to fulfill their specialized needs."

Vitessa's new service came about through a $23 million equity investment the company received in October from E-business software maker Vignette Corp. As part of the deal, Vitessa integrated Vignette's V/5 E-business platform into Merchant Exchange.

The Vitessa Merchant Exchange is sold directly and through Vignette. The connection fee is $100,000, and the monthly subscription fee is $10,000. Vitessa also collects a transaction fee, which ranges from 6% to 10% of each sale.

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