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How Small Businesses Can Afford E-Commerce ???

With many online behemoths still struggling to turn a profit in the e-commerce sector, smaller businesses may question whether the online sales model is truly a road to riches or just a pipedream.

After all, it costs big bucks to design, develop and maintain an e-commerce site that can draw the kind of customer volume needed to generate significant revenues and profits. That is why many small and medium businesses (SMBs) are choosing to abandon their homegrown, cobbled-together e-commerce systems, which often are vintage 1996 or 1997. Instead, they are buying prepackaged software to manage their e-tailing strategies from end to end, forgoing the high expense and risk associated with building solutions from scratch.

"You can't afford not to sell online," Wintergreen Research president Susan Eustis told the E-Commerce Times. "If companies don't do it, their competitors will throw them out of the market. And that goes for businesses of any size."

Ditching Vintage Equipments

One case in point of the buy-prepackaged trend is Anaconda Sports, which sells sports equipment to youth leagues, adult amateur athletes and schools. Since 1978, the company has sold its products via catalogs and call centers, and in 1996 it launched its first Web site.

The company recently outgrew its patched-together in-house solution and migrated to IBM's WebSphere Commerce.

"When we were getting quotes from other companies, they were estimating exorbitant consulting fees every time," Rob Meyer, director of Internet services at Anaconda Sports, told the E-Commerce Times. "We thought the price of IBM was going to be way out of our league. But in the long run, it became the most cost-effective choice."