BtoB

AOL, PurchasePro push into e-hubs

In pursuit of platforms

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The Dulles, Va.-based company is pursuing b-to-b initiatives across many of its online platforms, especially the Netscape Netbusiness hub, said Fred Singer, president-AOL interactive services. "As we begin to tie this marketplace to our classifieds, to our Shop@AOL, you begin to get access to consumers," he said.

The latest announcement comes at an important time for PurchasePro, which is under more Wall Street scrutiny than at any other time in recent memory. The Las Vegas-based marketplace developer's stock has been trading in the mid-single digits, off a 52-week high of $47.75. The expansion of its AOL deal could give it much needed exposure—after all, it is getting the de facto marketing backing of the world's largest media company.

Each of the marketplaces is being developed with the client's marketing strategy in mind. HP, for example, will meld content from the Netscape Netbusiness Marketplace into the HP Business Store, a site aimed at small to midsize businesses. It will also integrate HP Business Store products into the Netscape Netbusiness Marketplace. This will give HP access to the 140,000 mostly small businesses that use the hub for the buying and selling of everything from office chairs to software.

Monster.com, meanwhile, will develop a recruitment industry marketplace for the Netscape Netbusiness Marketplace.

Chinadotcom and Information Markets will work with AOL and PurchasePro to develop private-label hubs that will be built into the Netscape Netbusiness Marketplace.

The other new AOL and PurchasePro clients are: BroadVision Inc., eFruit International Inc., TheThread.com L.L.C., Viva Magnetics Ltd. and PlantAmerica Network.

Seamlessly linking the private hubs with the marketplace is AOL and PurchasePro's greatest challenge, said Chris Peters, CEO of consultancy eMarket Concepts. "The ability to go from one private-labeled site to another is important," Kelly said.

AOL's commitment to marketing the Netscape Netbusiness Marketplace could give it the brand differentiation it needs to succeed where other small and midsize business hubs have failed. The company has been doing a good deal of marketing on its behalf, notably, automatically registering with the marketplace users of AOL's Netbusiness card, a turnkey platform that allows businesses to set up a site.

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