WebSphere Commerce Suite 4.1 is Big on B-to-B

Responding to market demand, IBM has placed an increased emphasis on delivering business-to-business e-commerce capabilities in the release of WebSphere Commerce Suite, Pro Edition for AS/400, version 4.1.

Along with its focus on business-to-business e-commerce, WebSphere Commerce Suite 4.1 also provides a full range of features to meet the needs of two other major markets for e-commerce: business-to-consumer, and e-marketplaces.

According to IDC, e-commerce will grow from $111 billion to $1.3 trillion in the year 2003; 86 percent of the projected growth is expected to come from the business-to-business segment.
Formerly known as Net.Commerce, earlier editions were mainly focused on providing business-to-consumer e-commerce capabilities. However, the e-commerce market is undergoing a big change.

According to an IDC (Framingham, Mass.) report, e-commerce will grow from $111 billion to $1.3 trillion in the year 2003; 86 percent of the projected growth is expected to come from the business-to-business segment.

“WebSphere Commerce 4.1 contains much stronger B-to-B e-commerce capability because that’s where our customers are taking us,” says Louise Hemond-Wilson, worldwide AS/400 e-business segment manager.

One of the biggest reasons for the expected growth in the B-to-B market is cost savings. “The driving force behind the market is, it’s driving down the cost of doing business,” Hemond-Wilson says. “There’s an opportunity for savings because of the large volumes of material in B-to-B. Businesses are very hungry to drive down incremental costs.”

Some of the new B-to-B features in WebSphere Commerce 4.1 include: quick buy—standing orders, all shipping and payment information is pre-entered; quick order—to go directly to order form without having to go through catalog; reorder capability—replenishes stock off of a previously completed order; schedule orders—everything in the order goes out at a specific time; auctions—allow companies to get rid of surplus goods; and reverse auctions—bidding down a price.

According to Hemond-Wilson, the AS/400 is growing in popularity for B-to-B e-commerce. “We’re seeing the AS/400 being used more for B-to-B than B-to-C,” she says. “The AS/400 is a strong e-commerce B-to-B server because it’s good for distribution, manufacturing, consumer packaged goods—all markets that analysts are saying the business-to-consumer e-commerce market will be strong in.”

WebSphere 4.1 enables companies to create e-marketplaces, a growing market, especially for business-to-business focused companies. These e-marketplaces allow companies to improve operational efficiency and reduce the cost of sales to partners and customers by using features such as batch user registration, auction code and real-time order status and inventory updates.

Another new feature of the IBM WebSphere Commerce Suite is its ability to help businesses build customer loyalty with functions such as personalization. A rules-based engine analyzes a customer’s buying patterns and needs and then creates an electronic catalog for businesses based on those specific customer graphics. “This allows customers to start doing targeted promotions towards specific demographics,” says Hemond-Wilson. “Our end-goal is to allow our customers to better understand their customers, their buying needs, etc.”

Looking ahead, Hemond-Wilson expects the AS/400 to continue to grow as a B-to-B e-commerce server. “There are 70 tools or applications already on the AS/400 that do B-to-B applications,” she says. “The ISVs are supporting this market at a rapid pace, and we’re providing the infrastructure that allows companies to perform those functions.”

IBM WebSphere Commerce Suite, Pro Edition is available now in English only. National Language Support will be available after July 31. It has a tier-based price structure starting at $15,000. WebSphere Commerce Suite will be shipped with IBM WebSphere Application Server, Advanced Edition, version 3.0.2, and IBM WebSphere Payment Manager, version 2.1.

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