"Every transaction, large or small, on-line or off, local or international,
is built on a relationship of trust."
When the Internet first "took off" in the mid-1990's, many experts rejoiced at its potential to benefit SMEs in bypassing several layers of middlemen (disintermediation), thereby receiving higher prices. Especially for products traded on international markets, the long chain of middlemen pays the producer a small proportion of the final retail price - for example, less than 10%for crafts.
However, even after a SME uploads a catalog, it's difficult for potential buyers to find it among the millions of sites already on the Web. Moreover, even if they do find it, buyers are reluctant to purchase from someone located thousands of miles away that they don't know. Therefore, the main remaining obstacle to global e-commerce for SMEs is a lack of trust.
SME networks (such as chambers of commerce, industry associations, and trade promotion organizations) are in a position to help their members with, not only the technical details of e-commerce, but more importantly, generating trust.
OpenEntry.com is unique among e-commerce platforms in enabling SME networks to aggregate their members' OpenEntry catalogs into their own branded network market that can generate the necessary visibility and credibility that the members cannot achieve on their own, one-by-one.
A good example is the International Fair Trade Association's (IFAT) preliminary searchable fair trade market at http://ifat.appspot.com comprised of (for now) 3 members that maintain simple spreadsheets to generate their individual catalogs. It will soon contain thousands of craft items from IFAT's 270 members in 72 countries around the globe. Potential buyers can search for items with full confidence that their crafts come from remote producers that meet the strict fair trade standards of the high profile IFAT.
With OpenEntry, a SME network can offer a free web catalog to each of its members, an immediate benefit to the smallest. Those more sophisticated members that have already built their web catalogs with another system also benefit by participating in the SME network market by maintaining a simple Google spreadsheet that generates a basic OpenEntry catalog (with plenty of links to their main catalog).
Then each province chamber of commerce and industry association can aggregate its members into its own network market. The National Export Board can create another network market yet only invite selected SMEs to participate depending on their readiness to export.
The SME networks can generate the visibility and credibility with specialized target audiences and, at the same time, protect their "brand" by assuring buyers of the integrity of their members, thereby generating the trust so necessary for e-commerce.
Because these SME spreadsheets and catalogs all run on Google's cloud, this OpenEntry platform can easily scale to many thousands of SMEs participating in a myriad of specialized even global network markets.