Retail group Boots has joined 41 other major UK suppliers by signing up to BT's new online purchasing service BT Marketsite.
The service, based on software by US ecommerce systems supplier Commerce One, is an extranet-based marketplace that automates the purchase of goods such as office supplies, travel and maintenance services.
BT claims this automation can reduce ordering costs by up to 90% because goods can be sourced, ordered and authorised electronically by assigning purchasing power to end users.
'The time for online shopping engines is now,' said Rob Hailstone, senior analyst at Bloor Research.
Suppliers and buyers will both benefit from automating the purchasing process, he added.
BT Marketsite will host catalogues from several suppliers, allowing buyers to check availability and prices before placing orders.
Companies such as Boots will initially use Commerce One's Buy-Site buying application, on their intranet. This automatically passes orders through internal authorisation procedures.
BT said it will offer access from other buying applications shortly, including SAP's Business-to-Business Procurement application.
The buying applications will also be able to integrate into customers' back end enterprise resource planning systems.
Suppliers will be invited by buyers to join Marketsite. Smaller suppliers can also pay for their own presence on the service.
Suppliers currently subscribing to the service include IT companies Compel and Computacenter, and media marketing firm Orion.
Simon Scott, general manager of reseller Computacenter's ebusiness division, said Marketsite offers an alternative route to buyers.
Computacenter has offered its large corporate customers online purchasing for the past seven years.
From Computing, 17 June 1999
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