Kurant offers easy money for ISPs and ASPs

InfoWorld |  Business

We rate StoreSense Very Good because it's complete and easy to get running. We would have given it our best score if it didn't limit both the providers' and the merchant customers' ability to customize the solution. Every StoreSense provider sells exactly the same service, making the amount it charges the only thing to differentiate it from its competition. We also wish Kurant would scale its hardware to match the provider's volume. Once you outgrow Kurant's rather small server, scaling StoreSense is up to you.

Ready to run

The word turnkey is so often misused that we were pleasantly surprised to find StoreSense 4.0 actually comes out of the box ready to run. Kurant loads the RaQ with its Java-based software and configures the MySQL database and Apache Web server. All the RaQ asks for is an IP address. The StoreSense Java software launches itself when the RaQ powers up.

All interaction with StoreSense 4.0, both for the service provider and for its merchant customers, is Web-based. The provider's first task is to register the system with Kurant. The provider's StoreSense sends sales data to Kurant, so per-subscriber billing is automatic. The provider defines the characteristics of its Site Store, including name, address, phone number, and such, to create a built-in e-commerce site that will automatically pitch to and sign up new merchant customers.

The Site Store is one of StoreSense's strongest features. It does a fantastic job of selling the service by providing great marketing materials that make merchants want to sign up immediately.

But a rather big flaw exists. Part of the sales pitch is a sample storefront that, unfortunately for the service provider hoping to snag new business, is hosted at Kurant. From there, a prospective customer can navigate to a list of other providers that host their services via StoreSense, including, of course, the competitors. This is a serious setback, but it's the only problem we uncovered in StoreSense's thoroughly informative and effective self-marketing.

Watch your head

StoreSense 4.0 creates a fairly complete e-commerce solution for service providers to market to small merchant customers, but many factors limit the maximum size of a merchant who would benefit from the services: the lack of support for most customization, restricted EDI (electronic data interchange) with suppliers, slow Web interfaces, and extremely limited support for accounting software (only Quicken's QuickBooks is supported). A startup merchant with fewer than 50 catalog items and a few hundred sales tickets per month will thrive on the services offered by StoreSense-based providers.

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