The bottom line: Companies achieve a positive ROI from Venda by reducing the ongoing costs of supporting e-commerce while increasing the flexibility and sophistication of their online sales channel. Companies currently spending more than $120,000 a year to support their e-commerce infrastructure should evaluate Venda's offering as a potential ROI opportunity.The excitement about e-commerce during the "dotcom" era drove many traditional companies to heavily invest in commerce and content management systems that were often expensive to license, based on proprietary coding languages, highly customized, and limited in their ability to integrate with backend and fulfillment systems. Today, many companies are burdened with ongoing maintenance of those systems to maintain their e-commerce channel. Companies are looking first to reduce or cut ongoing IT costs, and many companies that invested heavily in complex commerce and content management solutions in the late 1990s are now reconsidering their strategies.Just as hosted CRM has attracted customers because of its lower cost and risk and ongoing flexibility to support changing needs, hosted e-commerce is another key area companies should consider to reduce e-commerce sales channel costs. Hosted E-Commerce: VendaVenda (www.Venda.com) provides a hosted e-commerce platform that enables companies to rapidly develop and support an e-commerce site and then manage it over time through a Web interface. Based in the United Kingdom, Venda is expanding its operations in the United States. Key features of the Venda solution include:Order management and tracking.Catalog management.Secure real-time payment authorization.Customer and visitor profiling and promotions.Site reporting and analysis. \tVenda is priced on a fixed-price monthly basis and leverages many of the key benefits of the hosted software model, including a single instance enabling customers to rapidly take advantage of new functionality and improvements without the addition cost and downtime impact of a software upgrade. The single instance model also enables companies that want to support multiple sites - distributors or country offices, for example - to maintain a common data model and platform while customizing language and brand at the interface level.Compared to an in-house e-commerce solution, Venda has some clear strengths:Rapid development and deployment - and low initial consulting and development costs. Nucleus has found some traditional e-commerce platforms can take months to deploy and require significant upfront investment in integration and customization. Conversely, Venda's customers are up and running in a matter of a few weeks - one customer's integration with its existing SAP application, for example, took six weeks. Another customer completed development of its Venda site and migrated all of its data and content from its existing Broadvision platform in less than three months.Low ongoing support costs. Companies don't need an internal team of IT people and developers to support Venda - changes can be made by a business user using a fairly straightforward Web interface, and all support needs are managed by Venda's hosting facility.Greater flexibility. If a new marketing, product catalog, or promotion needs to be added, the changes can be rapidly made with the management interface in Venda - without the need to bring in developers or consultants for additional coding.Low ongoing license costs. Venda's current pricing model sets its monthly license cost at $10,000. Companies currently spending more than $120,000 a year in license maintenance and IT costs to support their e-commerce environment may find Venda enables them to maintain or improve their e-commerce functionality at a lower cost.Standards-based development also enables Venda to be fairly easily integrated with other third-party applications and data sources. What's the Catch?It sounds too good to be true, but to understand how Venda does it you need to know where it came from. Venda acquired the technology assets of the failed "dot com" retailer Boo.com in the United Kingdom and completed the development to deliver its rich e-commerce feature set as a hosted offering. Because its code acquisition costs were relatively low, Venda is able to deliver a feature-rich standards-based platform at a relatively low cost to customers. Current Venda customers include BT Retail, Xerox Document Services Europe (XDSE), and Mothercare. Venda's only catch may be the perceived challenge of a hosted solution based in the United Kingdom, and thus far, Venda has shown its scalability and performance with customers isn't limited by its overseas hosting presence.RecommendationsE-commerce has long been considered a necessary evil for any company selling products - but it doesn't have to be costly and painful. Hosted e-commerce solutions such as Venda provide opportunities for ROI both in terms of cost savings compared to existing e-commerce infrastructures and in terms of additional incremental benefits through greater flexibility and reach.