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B2B sellers: What's in it for us?

By Antone Gonsalves and Scot PetersenWhile biz-to-biz stocks may be hip once more, the rules of the game are changing: Vendors are paying more attentionto sellers these days.The buzz around business-to-business commerce has primarily focused on procurement, or buyer-side, services.

By Antone Gonsalves and Scot Petersen

While biz-to-biz stocks may be hip once more, the rules of the game are changing: Vendors are paying more attention to sellers these days.

The buzz around business-to-business commerce has primarily focused on procurement, or buyer-side, services. Now, vendors are turning their attention to the sell side of the equation to empower the suppliers of online exchanges, resellers and distributors.

21 April 2000 - Comergent Technologies Inc. is taking a different tack. Next month, the company will introduce Version 3.0 of its Distributed E-Business System, which creates an open network between a seller and its distributors and resellers and even directly to customers, preserving existing relationships and channels.

Those companies' sell-side options join the likes of Ironside Technologies Inc., which this week unveiled Xchange, an XML (Extensible Markup Language) integration module for its Ironside Network.

Haht, Comergent and Ironside have a common goal: helping suppliers gain more control over their B2B relationships.

The unanswered question
"All the major chemical aggregators have come in to pitch us to be a supplier, but the question we ask them is, 'Will it bring us more business?' Nobody can answer that," said Larry Blazevich, CIO for Sigma-Aldrich Inc., a St. Louis-based global supplier of research chemicals to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries and to universities.

Sigma Aldrich began working last summer with Haht and its new Sellside Links software to link Sigma's SAP AG R/3 back-end system with customers' procurement applications. "Customers will come out of their purchasing modules directly into our Web site, capture information and integrate it right back into their back-end purchasing systems," Blazevich said, noting that purchase orders will be defined using XML.

Pricing for Sellside Links, which is scheduled to ship this quarter, has not been set, said officials at Haht, of Raleigh, N.C.

Haht's hosting service, Sellside Exchange, is priced at a $5,000 to $10,000 subscription fee and is scheduled to launch in July. The service will link buyers and sellers using Haht's e-Scenario software to give customers advanced options, such as real-time generation of promotions, customer-specific pricing, real-time product availability and order status information.

Another chemical company, Celanese Chemicals, of Dallas, is looking at Haht's technology to link its SAP R/3 system with an existing exchange, ChemConnect.

The company, a subsidiary of Celanese AG, of Frankfurt, Germany, opted for Haht over SAP's solutions because Haht does not require programmers to be fluent in SAP's proprietary Abap language, said Bill Schmitt, director of business enablement for Celanese. "We're trying to wean ourselves off of Abap programs, not get more of them," Schmitt said.

Comergent's direct approach
Comergent, of Belmont, Calif., allows sellers to host the selling application themselves, with small bits of software located on partners' procurement applications.

The benefit is enabling customers to interact directly with a seller's product data and catalogs and then seamlessly pass off the actual sale to a distributor's or reseller's transaction site.

The core Comergent product, Distributed Commerce Manager, includes four new modules: Marketing Manager, for up- and cross-selling; Commerce Catalog; Commerce Configurator; and Marketplace Analyzer, for decision support. Pricing is based on configuration.