IBM Launches New E-Commerce Program

Focusing on the continued growth of e-commerce with an eye toward financial institutions and small and medium sized businesses, IBM has launched the Merchant Enablement Program (MEP). This new program, which began in mid-July, is designed to provide the products and services banks and credit card processors require to offer a portfolio of turnkey IBM e-commerce solutions.

"This is just another example of broadening the range of IBM products," says Mike Odierna, worldwide e-business segment manager for IBM. "Many companies want to focus on customer needs in their industry and this is one way of allowing them to do that."

IBM points to a study by market research firm Cyber Dialogue (New York) as one of the reasons behind its decision to start the MEP program. The study indicates about 427,000 small businesses have gone online between the first quarters of 1998 and 1999, and the number that placed online orders jumped about 95 percent during the past 12 months.

The AS/400, which IBM promotes as a strong e-commerce platform because of its reliability and security, will be one of the platforms featured in the MEP. "The AS/400 is a great platform for these programs, its security and reliability is unmatched," Odierna says.

The MEP will give financial institutions in a competitive marketplace more options when it comes to e-commerce. According to IBM, the MEP is designed so financial institutions do not encounter problems such as: low online merchant transactions levels; losing merchants if e-commerce solutions and services are not available; and solutions that are not scalable.

The program offers a variety of services that enable financial institutions to deliver tailored solutions to merchants depending on their e-commerce needs. Financial institutions can offer their clients value-added payment and commerce services, such as pre-packaged merchant and payment server software, hardware and Web hosting. For more advanced financial institutions, MEP provides opportunities to team with partners and ISPs to offer merchants full e-commerce services.

By joining the Merchant Enablement Program, members can also partner with other program participants to provide complete e-commerce solutions. For example, if a financial institution does not want to host the merchant services, an ISP, service provider or business partner can be engaged to provide that service.

Some of the e-commerce offerings financial institutions will be able to offer their merchants through MEP include: IBM's e-business Start Now Program; IBM Net.Commerce PRO; IBM Net.Commerce Hosting Server; and IBM Payment Server.

"We're helping our financial customers broaden relationships with their customers by giving them an e-commerce package they can offer as an extension to their existing financial services," says Karl Salnoske, general manager of electronic commerce for IBM Software Solutions. "This is a definite win-win-win. Merchants get a standards-based, scalable solution. Financial institutions get an easy-to-implement customer retention tool. And IBM reaches new customers with industry-leading merchant and payment technology."