A consortium of technology and credit card heavyweights have announced support for a universal format to make it easy for consumers to shop online.
Microsoft, America Online, American Express, Compaq, Cybercash, IBM, MasterCard, SETCo, Sun Microsystems, Transactor Networks, Trintech and Visa USA have all pledged support for the Electronic Commerce Modeling Language (ECML) which will streamline the process by which online merchants collect electronic data for shipping, billing and payment through digital wallets.
Initial online merchants supporting ECML include Beyond.com, Dell Computer, fashionmall.com, healthshop.com, Nordstrom.com, Omaha Steaks, Reel.com, and 1-800-Batteries.
For consumers ECML will make it far easier to make purchases online. ECML electronic wallets will enable consumers to fill in personal details once and automatically fill in the order form at sites around the Web.
Eventually it is envisaged that consumers will have access to drag and drop style credit cards on their desktops, according to industry sources.
Online merchants hope the system will dramatically increase the number of online transactions. In a report earlier this year by Jupiter Communications it was estimated that 27 per cent of online buyers abandon orders before check-out due to the hassle of filling in forms.
Yet 76 per cent of online merchants said they would be happy to participate in a multi site electronic wallet to close the gap between abandoned electronic shopping trolleys and completed transactions.
"Up until now, there has not been a standard method for capturing information about which credit card, billing or shipping address consumers want to use in any given online transaction," said Steve Ryan, senior vice president, emerging technologies, Visa US.
"Increasing interoperability across the Web through initiatives, such as ECML, is a major step to achieving widespread adoption of ecommerce."
ECML is publicly available today and can be easily implemented by online merchants and technology vendors. An added benefit of the new format is that it can be used with existing data privacy and security protocols.
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