Andy
by Andy

MarketBlast Interview

We talk to Brendan Coveney, President and CEO of 4D Inc., about MarketBlast — an exciting new auction management solution.

Tags: Interviews

WR: Tell me about 4D.
BC:

4D Inc. is celebrating its 21st birthday this year. For two decades, it has been a leader in developing software tools that help small, medium and Fortune 500 companies manage their data. 4D, Inc. was originally founded under the name Analyses Conseils Informations (ACI). It's vision was to make simply the task of managing business data. We introduced our first product called 4th Dimension (4D) in 1985. 4D replaced ACI as the corporate name in 2000. Because of its continued emphasis on innovation and stability, 4D's technology has become the backbone to many critical business solutions. Examples include:

  • The US Army runs 4D technology on its main web site (www.army.mil)
  • More than two million schoolchildren and their parents login daily to a 4D-based solution to track their educational progress
  • Leading financial institutions such as Bank of America, Fleet Bank and The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. rely on a 4D solution to manage their internal security.
WR: What prompted the creation of MarketBlast?
BC: My wife's frustration in managing her eBay sales data. Before we had kids, Emma used to import and sell items from her native Philippines. She would complain about the amount of time it took to manage her listings and sales data as well as respond to customer emails. Then one day, she bluntly said: "You run a database company! Why can't you address this problem?" The obedient husband I am, I complied. And it made a lot of sense, too, because the development of MarketBlast is simply a natural transition for a database company to address the needs of e-commerce businesses. High volume sellers have enormous amounts of data to manage.
WR: How can you sell and maintain such a complex program for a $99 one-off fee?
BC:

I wouldn't call it a complex product, because that would imply that it was hard to use for the average eBayer. Instead, I would call it a simple, yet comprehensive tool for managing the entire selling process from inventory through post-sales management. We can afford to offer this product without relying on recurring charges, because MarketBlast is built on the award-winning 4th Dimension technology, a database program we've been developing and selling for two decades. Moreover, most of the other vendors have invested in massive web server and bandwidth infrastructures which require large capital investments and then 24x7 operational expenses. These expenses have to be funded from somewhere and hence the high cost of these solutions. MarketBlast uses the eBay sellers' own infrastructure, in that we use the power of their own computer desktop machine and their own Internet connection for bandwidth.

Finally, we don't have to charge our customers monthly fees, we have found creative ways to lower our development costs. For example, we don't charge photo hosting fees, because MarketBlast integrates with Yahoo!'s Flickr service. This pioneering image hosting service allows you to upload about 400 images per month (20 MB of bandwidth) for free.

Organizational wise, some of our competitors have had to invest large sums in acquiring international companies to broaden into international markets. We, however, already have eight offices around the world, and 4th Dimension software is distributed in more than 50 countries. Therefore, 4D already has a large international footprint and we don't need to ask our MarketBlast customers to fund these expansions with higher prices.

WR: Which sites does MarketBlast work with? Do you plan to support other sites?
BC: The current version supports eBay U.S. and eBay Motors. 4D plans to expand to assist sellers using other channels, such as Yahoo! Shopping, Froogle and Overstock, sometime down the road. Of course, we also plan to expand into the other eBay international sites, such as eBay UK, eBay Australia etc. We're currently testing with these sites and hope to be able to announce our support for these sites in the upcoming weeks. For other non-English sites, MarketBlast was designed from day one to be an international product and we expect to offer versions in different languages in the very near future.
WR: What help is available for MarketBlast users?
BC:

MarketBlast comes complete with over 150 pages of documentation. Included with the software is contextual help, whenever you're in a specific screen and press help, the help information is relevant to what you're doing right now.

4D offers several online classes per week on how to use MarketBlast (http://www.marketblast.com/support/class.html). If you are already using MarketBlast, or just considering purchasing it, you're welcome to log into a class.

Topics include: Getting started, importing your existing inventory, building profiles, creating listings, adding photos, using custom HTML templates, synchronizing with eBay, managing listings, using the Navigator, fulfillment checklist, automating your eBay experience, email management, email marketing campaigns, creating reports, spotting trends, the General Ledger, and auto-updating MarketBlast.

We have also begun offering video tutorials from our site. These tutorials, which we will be adding on a regular basis, provide an engaging way to learn MarketBlast features at your own pace.

We also have an interactive mailing list and forum for MarketBlast. Interested people can sign up at http://www.marketblast.com/support/maillists.

Customers can also get questions answered via email by posting their inquiries on our support form at http://www.marketblast.com/support/mbhelp.html.

4D Inc. has been voted among the top ten web support sites by the Association of Support Professionals in the U.S. in recent years, and we have used all of this technology to ensure that MarketBlast users get the similar quality support they deserve.

WR: Where is MarketBlast heading in the future?
BC: While MarketBlast's initial target audience is the half million high-volume eBay sellers, 4D is positioning itself to assist the nine million U.S. small businesses that will eventually be selling through various e-commerce channels if they are not already. In addition we are very excited that the 4D Third party community vendors are revving up with extra solutions that can be used as add-ons for MarketBlast. These will target different niche markets with wonderful solutions and will really enhance the value of MarketBlast to its users.
WR: Did you enjoy the eBay Live! Conference?
BC: Absolutely. It was an incredible atmosphere. The people were so friendly and excited about MarketBlast, a seller's tool that promised no monthly fees.

Discuss this interview here


Article Added: 25 July 2005
Last Updated: 25 July 2005


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