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An easy way to e-tail Featured

9:35am EDT July 22, 2002

Cimetric Commerce Inc. promises its clients the world.

The Columbus-based company -- formerly known as Ncom Group -- will, for no up-front fees, design and maintain a Web site, provide online marketing, answer customer questions, process sales, fulfill orders, ship products and even handle returns for client companies. The only hard cost for the client is to make inventory available. Cimetric makes its money by getting a cut of every sale generated on the Web site.

For The Solid Light Co., a Worthington-based retailer, it was the ideal arrangement.

Now the family-owned company has its complete line of contemporary Christian apparel on the World Wide Web at www.ChristianShirts.com under Cimetric's management. The start-up price was the wholesale cost of $12,000 in consigned inventory.

"Our company expertise is in wholesale," says Solid Light president Brian Peterson, "not direct to consumer."

Solid Light will not compete directly with its wholesale clients, he adds, but none of its wholesale clients would carry the entire product line offered by Solid Light, a business started in the '60s selling T-shirts. Www.ChristianShirts.com allows Solid Light to bring all its products before the consumer.

Kingdom Imports of Newark couldn't afford a retail location, instead selling its products -- made by indigenous people in several countries -- on tables set up at conferences and festivals. Since Kingdom Imports is a nonprofit enterprise, the cost of developing a Web site was out of range.

"We give 100 percent of the profits back [to those who make the products] so they can continue the work of their church," says director Phillip Dunfee, pastor of Christ the King Newark Vineyard.

Since there were no up-front costs in working with Cimetric, the project was a go. The business now has its own Web site at www.KingdomImports.com for an investment of $5,000 in product, which Cimetric even warehouses.

The traditional cost just to develop an e-commerce site can run well into six figures, according to Doug Sapp, co-founder and chief executive of Cemetric. He and partner Mark Prevost created e-commerce software that allows them to divide the cost of the technology among an unlimited number of companies that sign up for their service. Those partners also share Cimetric's customer service and fulfillment staffs.

"Our technology is designed on what we call a shared infrastructure," says Prevost, president and chief operating officer. "The reason why our model is profitable is because we have a lot of stores combined that, all and all, add up to a profitable mix, as opposed to looking for four or five fixed, giant stores."

Prevost expects Cemetric to realize actual profits "in either the third or fourth quarter of 2001."

Cimetric typically receives between 15 and 34 percent of each sale, Prevost says, depending on the average price of the product and the total annual sales volume. One client is charged only 9 percent, he explains, because the average product sells for $1,000. The final figure is calculated at the end of each year.

In addition to building and operating a Web store for each client, Cimetric's services include:

  • Customer service, both online and with a toll free number specifically assigned to each business.

  • Secure transaction processing and 24-hour on-site order fulfillment.

  • Data mining and reporting.

  • Real-time inventory accounting and reporting.

Solid Light has been pleased enough with its ChristianShirts Web site that it's having Cimetric build a second site -- www.SolidLightCo.com -- which will show consumers a product catalog and list all Web sites and bricks-and-mortar stores that sell its apparel. For wholesalers, Peterson says, it will have inventory management and business-to-business commerce capabilities.

Neither the ChristianShirts nor KingdomImports sites has shown noticeable sales in the months each has been in operation, partly because of limited marketing on their parts, Dunfee and Peterson agree. Cimetric does online marketing, but asks its companies to tie the Web site address into its traditional advertising efforts, Sapp says.

This month, Peterson will start traditional magazine advertising to bring people to the site.

"You need the old media as much as you need the new media," he says. "If you do a search on Yahoo! for 'Christian shirts,' you'll get thousands of hits. How do you stand out in that? It's a real basic question. How do you do it on a small budget?"

Peterson has decided the money that comes in from www.ChristianShirts.com will be placed in a fund that becomes the budget for marketing the site.

As for Kingdom Imports, to keep Cimetric's commission lower, Dunfee didn't take the offer of online marketing when he signed up. He thought word of mouth in the Christian community would be enough. When his one-year contract is up, however, he says he'll add that and give Cimetric a higher percentage of each sale.

"Having a Web site is a wonderful thing," Dunfee says, "but if you don't have the traffic, a Web site is wonderful thing that nobody knows about."

Cimetric, itself, is now working throughout the world via its own Web site, with customers from Chicago to Australia.

As Cimetric grows, its target market evolves.

"I'm not looking for mom and pop shops that are bottling jams out of the garage," Prevost says. "We signed Kingdom up in the very beginning because there is an advantage to building some client accounts. We would not accept another Kingdom Imports today, but we would not dismiss Kingdom Imports today."

Cimetric wants to do business with companies that have annual wholesale sales starting at $10 million, Sapp says.

"With inventory in hand, we can go live in as short as two weeks." How to reach: Cimetric Commerce Inc., 861-6266 or www.cimetric.com

Andria Segedy (aesegedy@sprintmail.com) is a free-lance writer for SBN.