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Excite@Home Hosts Free Web Shops

Excite@Home Tuesday unveiled its e-commerce storefront service enabling dot.com start-ups to build online stores for free.

Dubbed Freetailer, the service enables Excite@Home users to create and manage a fully functioning online stores at no cost.

The free e-commerce service features a straightforward Web interface that requires no up-front investment from e-tailer wannabes.

Mark O'Leary, Excite@Home Business Solutions executive vice president said the no-fee is essential to building its e-commerce Web content.

"Freetailer is a key step in our strategy to be the leader in e-commerce innovation and to help entrepreneurs and small businesses successfully establish themselves in the Internet economy," O'Leary said.

Freetailer offers 25 megabytes of storage, 1 gigabyte per month of data transfer, customizable storefronts, virtual cash register, and shopping cart services for free.

Building an online store with Freetailer means that owners receive automatic entry into Excite's general search database and shopping service listings.

Secure order management and real-time reporting of customer orders and e-wallet data, as well as sales and marketing tips are available to users through Excite@Home's merchant resource center.

Dan Odette, Excite Business Applications vice president of marketing said everyone from mom and pop shops to Web-only startups could easily become savvy e-tailers through the free service.

"We've designed Freetailer to be a flexible service that provides the tools to quickly build a Web store that automatically becomes part of Excite's popular shopping services," Odette said.

Excite@Home also intends to up-sell its services to successful "freetailers." It offers a variety of commerce upgrades including domain name registration services, e-mail accounts, credit card merchant account information and secure payment gateways. Advertising programs, premier shop listings, additional disk storage space, and extra bandwidth are also available.

A recent IDC study indicates that U.S. e-commerce has plenty of room to grow. But the report indicated that successful e-tailers must focus on converting non-buyers into active online consumers.

Jim Williamson, IDC consumer e-commerce senior analyst, said poor Web performance and design are currently the largest obstacles to online purchases.

"The greatest segment of growth for ecommerce companies will be the current cadre of non-buyers, which means a detailed understanding of this segment is necessary," Williamson said. "Typically, users who abandoned an online purchase midstream said the reason they did not complete the purchase was because their online session was interrupted."

"Optimizing site performance and decreasing the number of pages in the checkout process are critical to the success of an ecommerce site," Williamson said.

Leveraging Excite@Home's network, design and advertising skills is a solid way for e-tailers to increase their chances of building a successful Web store.