Catalog hub ups b-to-b offerings

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Businesses soon will be able to make online purchases from multiple b-to-b catalogs using a single shopping cart., a 5-year-old online marketplace of more than 17,000 mail order catalogs (including those of 2,755 b-to-b marketers), plans to launch the new service Sept. 1. It is bringing its consumer-based model to b-to-b catalog marketers in hopes of acquiring new customers.

Currently, potential buyers can request b-to-b catalogs featured on to be mailed to them. Product categories include agriculture and livestock goods, corporate gifts and office supplies.

Many catalogs, one order

The new effort will allow customers to browse and purchase products online from many different b-to-b catalogs as part of a single order, using CatalogCity’s unified shopping cart technology. The company introduced the unified cart service for its consumer catalog clients in May 2001.

"The new service will give [businesses] access to more suppliers and, ultimately, better prices," said Lee Lorenzen, president-CEO of Monterey, Calif.-based Altura International, which owns CatalogCity. "We want to give our merchants exposure in venues where they don’t already have exposure."

He also expects the new service to generate additional revenue for CatalogCity. While a catalog listing on the site is free, CatalogCity charges for the e-commerce/shopping cart service. Pricing is on a cost-per-order basis, plus an upfront network management fee. CatalogCity will refund the fee if merchants aren’t able to generate five times the amount in catalog orders.

The company has forged partnerships with most of the major portals, including AOL, Yahoo! and InfoSpace, as well as a number of affinity partners, in order to drive traffic to the site. "We’ll have additional product exposure at those sites for b-to-b as well," Lorenzen said.

As it does for consumer catalogers, CatalogCity will purchase key words on search engines such as Overture and Google on behalf of its b-to-b customers, saving them from bidding on a continuing basis and then measuring performance.

Management fees for the upcoming service will range from $2,500 to $500,000, depending on the level of commission chosen. For instance, if a merchant pays $500,000 in management fees, CatalogCity takes 2% in commissions, while a $2,500 fee requires a 40% commission on sales.

For Counsel, a b-to-b cataloger currently listed as a merchant on the CatalogCity site, plans to sign up for the e-commerce service.

"We pay only if we receive business," said Art Kroos, president and founder of the catalog, which targets lawyers and other professionals. "It’s a great way to expand our exposure into areas and customers we may not otherwise reach." For Counsel will mail roughly 1.5 million catalogs this year.

New b-to-b sales force

Lorenzen has hired five salespeople to focus on signing up b-to-b catalog merchants. Initially, CatalogCity will target 100 and 150 catalogs, which Lorenzen estimates will provide the critical mass to attract b-to-b customers.

"Until we build up a critical mass of catalogs, it makes no sense to build," he explained. "Because the b-to-b sector is broken up into different segments, you have to become strong in each of those before it becomes useful for people to discover that area. Having one or two educational catalogs does not meet the critical mass."

Lorenzen is optimistic about the program’s potential and sees no problem signing up clients. "There’s no downside for merchants. We’ll either drive sales or they’ll get a refund of their payment," he said.

CatalogCity has commitments from at least a dozen b-to-b merchants. Still in question is whether the new service will launch as a separate section of the CatalogCity site or as an independent site or sites.

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