by John Moore
This Internet integrator has set up camp in a niche others have overlooked: e-selling.
Fort Point Partners Inc. has stormed onto an electronic-commerce battleground the company
believes other integrators have neglected: building sites that actually sell stuff.
The integrator has made "e-selling" its primary target and point of differentiation in a competitive market. James Roche, who co-founded Fort Point with brother Matthew in 1996, says rivals have focused on either marketing activities --customer experience and branding, for example --or technical activities, such as systems integration. But an aesthetically pleasing, well-architected e-commerce site isn't much good if the visitors aren't buying.
"You have to have great marketing and great technology, but it's not enough," Roche says. "The winners are the people who sell better."
And therein lies Fort Point's mission: to help e-merchants create sites that close sales and retain customers. Its first step is to help its clients identify their key customers. "We'll say, 'Let's understand who your customer is and understand why they'd like to come to your site, and how do we get them to buy,'" Roche explains.
Once the target customer has been identified, Fort Point builds a solution designed to drive sales. For an electronics distributor, that could mean building an online configurator as part of an e-commerce site. A clothing e-tailer, meanwhile, may need a mechanism to remind customers when new products are available.
To Build Or Not To Build
Roche says the greatest value-add the company provides is advice on what to build and what not to build. He says some companies fall into the trap of buying an off-the-shelf e-commerce solution that can't fit their business models without heavy modification. In the other extreme, companies sometimes opt to create everything from scratch. "They try to automate everything that doesn't run away from them, but they don't supply anything that provides real value," Roche says.
Fort Point customers tend to fit a couple of profiles. In one group are companies that want to boost sales from existing Web sites. Another group consists of companies in launch mode that are under pressure to generate sales from day one. A prime example would be a brick-and-mortar firm entering the online market amid established dot-com competitors.
"A common thread in all our new projects is people have made a decision to do what it takes to win," Roche says. Fort Point helps them sell their way to victory.
About Ford Point
Fort Point cultivates alliances, such as its recently announced deal with Sun Microsystems. Under that agreement, the companies plan to provide e-selling solutions to business-to-business customers. That could prove a lucrative arrangement, because Fort Point reports recent deals in the $5 million range in integration revenue alone. Fort Point competes against such companies as Proxicom, Sapient and Scient.