ATG going on the b-to-b attack

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E-commerce server vendor Art Technology Group Inc. appears to be making some inroads into b-to-b, a market where its archrival, BroadVision Inc., has already waged a full-frontal attack.

While ATG has always counted a significant number of sell-side b-to-b Web sites among its customer base, as has BroadVision, it lately has landed key deals with some of the larger names among Internet e-marketplaces. It recently scored a major win with consumer goods marketplace Transora, and last week landed a deal with chemicals market

In both cases, and in other b-to-b wins, ATG and its Dynamo server are doing what they do best: serving as the front-end to sophisticated e-commerce sites with an emphasis on customer segmentation and personalization.

Alternate approach

It's a slightly different take on the b-to-b market than BroadVision's, which earlier this year rolled out new packaged applications targeting the core b-to-b applications of procurement and marketplace-enablement.

"We have a very different product strategy than BroadVision, and this is symptomatic of it," said Rich Caplow, ATG's director of product marketing. "They deliver highly specialized sets of products. It's a prepackaged approach. We deliver a platform you can use to build custom applications based on your needs."

Caplow's assessment is a fair one, for the most part, though both companies are moving closer to a middle ground. BroadVision has been opening up its programming environment, while ATG has added more out-of-the-box capabilities in recent releases.

Analysts said it might make sense for ATG to focus on its b-to-b strengths, such as personalization, rather than try to attack market leaders such as Ariba Inc. and Commerce One Inc. head-on, as has BroadVision.

"ATG has much richer personalization capabilities than many of its rivals," said Mike Gilpin, analyst with the Giga Information Group. "They are definitely one of the leaders in that area."

For ATG, its b-to-b strategy means the company is going to have to play well with rivals. For instance, in its deal with CheMatch, its platform sits alongside e-commerce platforms from BEA Systems Inc. and Ariba, each of which plays a role in delivering site functionality. BEA runs the site's trading exchange, while Ariba delivers its auction engine.

ATG's Dynamo server, meanwhile, will sit in front of those servers and deliver Web pages to visiting browsers. More important, it will help CheMatch create personalized "MyCheMatch" content and catalogs targeted at its three distinct customer groups: hardcore traders, occasional auction participants and more casual users looking for general chemical industry information, said Michael Ereli, CheMatch's VP-technology.

Don't forget CRM

Caplow said CheMatch's experience is typical of many e-marketplaces, which spent their early days building auction and procurement functionality before realizing they had to pay more attention to customer management.

"It's an evolutionary process, and b-to-b is no exception," Caplow said. "Creating a rich customer experience and building customer loyalty is just as important as creating a more efficient transaction process."

ATG is hoping to cash in on those b-to-b needs. "Relationship management seems to be something that people are glossing over or missing altogether," Caplow said. "But relationships are as important or more important in the b-to-b world, and infinitely more complex."

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