September 17, 2012, 11:48 AM

Monsoon Commerce gets $8 million in capital and a new CEO

It plans to launch a SaaS platform for managing sales across multiple web sites.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

Lead Photo

Kanth Gopalpur

With $8 million in fresh capital and a new CEO, e-commerce technology provider Monsoon Commerce is on course to upgrade its products to make it easier for retailers to manage orders and product pricing across multiple web sites, including e-marketplaces and physical stores, the company says.

The company, which is majority owned by Oak Hill Capital Partners—the source of the recent capital—has named as its chief executive Kanth Gopalpur. An e-commerce technology veteran, he founded Powells.com, the online arm of Powell’s Books Inc., No. 418 in the Internet Retailer Top 500. Gopalpur succeeds Brian Elliott, who had worked as Monsoon’s CEO since 2007. Elliott retired from his CEO spot but hasn’t said what he plans to do, according to Monsoon.

Monsoon plans to launch in the second quarter of 2013 its first software-as-a-service, or SaaS, technology platform, which it will make available in a beta version in the first quarter of next year, says Casey Carey, vice president of marketing. The Internet-hosted SaaS platform will be targeted to retailers with annual sales ranging from $500,000 to $50 million, he says.

Monsoon provides technology for managing pricing and other product data across multiple web sites, including such online e-marketplaces as Amazon.com and Buy.com. It also offers order management technology that it acquired last year when it bought Stone Edge Technologies. For online shopping cart technology, Monsoon integrates with a large number of cart applications from companies including eBay Inc.’s Magento, Yahoo Inc.’s Yahoo Small Business and Volusion Inc.

Going forward, Monsoon will upgrade the Stone Edge application to make it easier to learn how to use the software, and build stronger integration throughout the Monsoon software suite to make it less cumbersome for multichannel retailers to manage product listings and inventory records across their physical stores, e-commerce sites and e-marketplaces, Carey says. “The biggest pain we hear from retailers is having to manage orders and update inventory separately in each retail channel,” he says.

In addition, Monsoon’s new platform will support:

● sourcing of products, enabling retailers to set up triggers that automatically send purchase orders to suppliers based on levels of inventory;

● a higher level of compliance with the payment card industry data security standard, commonly referred to as PCI, for special orders that must be manually entered. The system is being designed so that a retailer enters an order in a way that encrypts customers’ payment card data to protect it while it’s transferred to payment gateways and stored in databases.

● increased international capabilities, with an expanded focus on serving consumers in the United Kingdom; Monsoon is also evaluating an expansion into the Australian e-commerce market.

Industry analysts say Monsoon competes against many companies offering SaaS e-commerce technology to small and mid-size retailers. Indeed, the abundance of vendors makes it a buyer’s market, they say. “This space is over-supplied with options, and retail organizations have a lot of leverage negotiating with these vendors,” says Gene Alvarez, vice president and technology analyst at research and advisory firm Gartner Inc. 

Nonetheless, Monsoon’s combination of technology and services—from product sourcing to the management of product information and customer orders across several online web sites and stores, plus an expansion of international commerce features—puts the company in a good position to serve retailers’ growing demand for such capabilities, says Bernardine Wu, CEO of FitForCommerce, a consulting firm that helps retailers evaluate and deploy e-commerce technology. Key to Monsoon’s success, she adds, will be how well it can integrate its technology offerings. “Monsoon is in a great position to offer a combined front-end and back-end solution for e-commerce platforms and order management, which we hope will be integrated tightly and seamlessly for the e-businesses that choose to use their offering,” Wu says.

Monsoon also owns online book retailer Alibris, No. 122 in the Internet Retailer 500. The company says it is reallocating personnel and other resources in its commerce business unit, which includes Alibris and services that help retailers sell through e-marketplaces, to tie that unit more closely to its software business.

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