Steve Booth was shopping for a storefront e-commerce solution recently when a free one fell out of the Web.

Booth’s company, Calgary-based Corp., a networking solution provider, is one of the early users of

InstaStore, an offering from Tech Data Canada.

It’s a new product

of the distributor’s three-year-old partnership with The Business Network (TBN), an online supply chain management service provider for manufacturers and distributors.

A Web store solution that Tech Data resellers can brand with their logos, InstaStore’s catalogue is populated with products from Tech Data Canada. It’s free for a 90-day trial.

The demo version, however, won’t let users directly order product online. Instead, they can request an e-mail quote.

Interested resellers can move up to a version with more features, called InstaStore Plus, which is also subsidized by Tech Data. However, to prove they’re serious they have to take a $1,200 TBN course detailing how to best take advantage of e-commerce.

“The biggest thing for us is to provide to our customers access to the vast majority of products we sell,” Booth said in explaining why he wanted an online presence.

“A lot of the time they don’t realize we offer everything from CD-RW media to cluster servers.”

His four-year-old company, which installs and supports networks, has three employees and pulls in about $500,000 a year.

He was looking at other Web storefronts, but when InstaStore was launched earlier this month decided to give it a try.

“It’s an introduction to the e-commerce world,” David Spindler, Tech Data Canada’s director of business development, said of the company’s offering.

“We’ve got a lot of requests over the years from customers around [designing] Web sites – what kind of content should we have, how should the data be managed, what’s the best solution.

“So we decided to give them something they can experiment with.”

InstaStore is a “watered down version” of the full e-commerce solution TBN has been offering Tech Data Canada resellers since 2002. The price of that when introduced was $250 a month.

Under InstaStore the distributor is paying TBN for every VAR that signs up, plus a bandwidth charge. TBN will also collect the training fee under InstaStore Plus.

Tech Data Canada’s goal is to get VARs to use its catalogue instead of those of Ingram Micro and Synnex Canada.

While all three carry many of the same products, each has its own product number, Spindler said.

“If we can seed the customer marketplace with our [product] information so it’s easy to do business with Tech Data Canada . . . that’s pretty powerful.”

So far about 100 resellers have signed up with InstaStore, and Spindler hopes that will rise to 250 by April. About 10 VARs are moving to InstaStore Plus.

Booth sees some advantages. “The biggest value is people can see what we have available and can call and ask if we can do something for them.”

However, he regrets InstaStore doesn’t have the ability to add custom services his company offers.

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