Fort Point Retools Business Model As Software Vendor


Fort Point Partners, one of the first pure-play e-business solution providers, is shifting gears, moving from being a solution provider to a software vendor.

Company executives declined to provide details about a new product the company is preparing to launch. But they say, to no one's surprise, that the demand for the e-commerce solutions at which Fort Point excelled during the glory days of the Internet boom has plummeted.

"I am very proud of the work we have done as a custom e-solutions [developer]," said Matthew Roche, CEO of San Francisco-based Fort Point.

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>>%A0Matt Roche: 'I would much rather be [a product company] than be Scient or Viant.

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Many companies now have in place an IT infrastructure that can support customized selling, Roche said. "Now we need to help them optimize it. The key is we have to get the marketers to be able to [customize sales pitches] without IT involvement."

Roche and Kevin Tate, vice president of global markets at Fort Point, hinted that the forthcoming product, slated to be widely available in the second quarter, will be aimed at marketing executives.

Companies need to figure out how to communicate with users via print catalogs, Web sites, e-mail and other channels, Tate said. "One of the big challenges is coordinating that communication, and recognizing that the customer might interact with you in multiple ways. If someone is buying a dining room set, it's probably best done in a showroom, but if someone has a question about furniture, it might be better handled [via] e-mail."

The trick is to find a mix of sales and support channels that are convenient for the customer and cost-effective for the vendor, Tate said.

Roche said it is healthy for the company to change with the times. "I would much rather be [a product company] than be Scient or Viant," Roche said, referring to two former competitors of Fort Point's that have since gone out of business.