30,000 new customers in just three months! Where can you achieve that? On the Internet. On Mercateo, Germany’s virtual mega market place which is visited by around 100,000 business customers every day.
There are zillions of e-commerce providers and many of them come and go like the wind. What makes Mercateo such a success? Mercateo’s primary target group are SMEs. Small and medium-sized companies are able to use the virtual market place for implementing a more professional procurement management. Mercateo makes trailing through vast product catalogues and lengthy comparisons of various suppliers’ prices and delivery conditions a thing of the past, considerably simplifying the procurement process. Ordering goods and services becomes an easy task, especially for self-employed people or small companies that do not have procurement personnel.
High-end professional tools make ordering easy
Mercateo performs this small miracle with the help of a high-end professional and comfortable search and optimisation tool. Even novices are no longer helpless. At Mercateo, the times of having to first research the exact product description and supplier are over. Now every employee can order printer paper and coffee filters as well as screws and locks, plumbing pliers or anti-rust coating without being thrown in at the deep end. Even high-end products such as notebooks and flatscreens or speciality products like laboratory and hospital supplies are on offer.
Customers log on as purchasers. Then they either enter an exact product description, use the search function or browse amongst 19 product categories. The search engine looks for suitable offers amongst listed trading partners and within seconds provides customers with a selection of products. Now they just have to decide if they wish to purchase goods with the most favourable price or the fastest delivery time. More than 500 trading partners offer their wares on Mercateo, creating an unbelievable selection of more than five million products, with numbers growing daily.
The advantage for Mercateo customers: They deal with just one address and contact for the entire ordering process. Apart from brand products such as Sigel office materials or Haribo sweets, many white label, regional and speciality suppliers are also listed. One example for the depth of the product range is the search term “screw”: There are countless variations, from C for cylinder head screw to H for headless screw to S for spacing screw that come up when entering this key word.
Mercateo offers just about anything
Even “exotic” requests are catered for by Mercateo. Customers can find printer cartridges no longer available for sale elsewhere, for instance. The Mercateo idea appears simple at first sight and therefore easy to copy. But Managing Directors Peter Ledermann and Dr. Sebastian Wieser are not worried about copycats. Going by their own experience, the entry barrier for new competitors is very high. Mercateo received finance from a strategic investor after being established in 2000, helping it on its way to becoming a large virtual supplier. The tools developed back then are now at the core of the Mercateo platform.
Luckily for current Managing Directors Peter Ledermann and Dr. Sebastian Wieser, the investor opted out of the business, giving them the opportunity of taking over Mercateo at the end of 2003. But there was much left to do: Finding and establishing a suitable site in Köthen, Sachsen-Anhalt, selecting and training motivated staff, gaining new trading partners and potential customers. Together with the venture capital firm Target Partners, which gave the company a helping hand by providing financial means and useful managerial experience, the project was tackled and successfully implemented. Target Partners knows how important a convincing company portfolio and well organised team are for a successful start-up. In 2007, BayBG Bayerische Beteiligungsgesellschaft was taken on board to further expand the company. Today, Mercateo has more than 700,000 customers and employs a total of 150 people.
SME cooperates with the market
Mercateo, the market place for SMEs, has recently also been gaining “fans” in the corporate world. RWE AG has been working with Mercateo since 2008. Together, procurement of the DAX listed company was optimised and a comfortable, web-based e-procurement solution implemented with a broad product portfolio and supplier network. In addition to Mercateo’s standard product range, RWE employees have access to their usual “personal” suppliers.