Telecom Yellow Pages goes e-commerce

In what it believes is a world first for a yellow pages business, Telecom's Internet Yellow Pages is about to launch an e-commerce product for small businesses.

In what it believes is a world first for a yellow pages business, Telecom's Internet Yellow Pages is about to launch an e-commerce product for small businesses.

The new product, which debuts on Thursday, wasdeveloped with Webmasters before and after its acquisition by Advantage Group. It offers Yellow Pages customers up to 15 pages of online catalogue, plus a secure credit card facility and a range of customisable online forms.

All the features can be set up by customers at the site . The domain was registered last year by Telecom Directories.

Since its launch two and a half years ago, the Internet Yellow Pages has attracted around 6000 customers. It averages 30,000 searches daily and about 25% of its traffic is offshore.

In doing so, Directories has worked with relative independence from the rest of Telecom's Internet initiatives. Directories declined to work with Telecom's then in-house Web developer, DVP, in 1996, choosing Webmasters instead, and the company's sales and marketing manager Lester Smith says it will continue to work in parallel with other Telecom efforts, including the new eSolutions joint venture.

"There'll be some closer integration as we go forward, but I think it's fair to say that in terms of the small business area we have a level of expertise and a market presence that's reasonably compelling. With our offline product we have a large sales force and a strong brand. It's a proposition that works.

"But in the next few years I think we'll find more and more that a lot of the solutions that Telecom are providing will become more useful to the mostly small business that we are dealing with. That's the core of our market, and if we can get small business to put a toe in the water with something they understand, then we're actually leading those people online."

Initially, eSolutions is targeting the top 2700 businesses in the country with its e-commerce products, with Directories aiming at the rest.

The Yellow Pages service is currently limited in a number of respects. Advertisers can choose what currency they sell in but can only offer one currency at a time. Likewise, there is no shopping basket feature - meaning purchases have to be made one at a time. A shopping basket and other features - including, possibly, Buyline-style real-time credit card clearance - are being lined up for the third phase of the site.

Directories David Haysom says the company is happy for third parties - including and Xtra - to coninue providing IRL redirect services, which allow advertisers to use their own domain names to point to the more complex Yellow Pages URLs.

Yellow Pages services start at $35 a month for a single page Web site, plus $15 for a headline listing; with extra charges for shop functionality, catalogue pages and forms. Web production services are also available.

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