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*ERA Closes Biggest Show With Member Incentive Announcements

LAS VEGAS — The 10th annual Electronic Retailing Association's Conference and Exposition wrapped up here yesterday with two major announcements that underscore the transitional period of growth for the association and its membership.

A new ERA Web site called ERAMarketplace.com will go live yesterday, providing members and interested parties with a virtual business-to-business marketplace. Adding to its member services, the ERA also announced a partnership with DPI Merchant Services, Omaha, NE, which will provide ERA members with discounts for mail-order, e-commerce and phone-order processing.

The show was a mirror of these announcements. Companies once fighting new media have settled down to take a hard look at how these new ways of reaching consumers will affect their bottom lines.

The ERA has used this year’s show — projected to be the largest show ever, with 2,500 paid registrants — as a proving ground for the work it has put into establishing the association as more than just an infomercial association, but rather a full-service, new-media direct marketing group. The association has sought to include all of its members and to continually upgrade the services available, said Elissa Myers, president/CEO of the ERA, Washington.

The new Web site will allow companies to set up virtual storefronts, product catalogs and spot markets, as well as sell overstocked product via an auction.

Similarly, chat rooms, a career center and a bulletin board for industry question-and-answer sessions will be available.

“ERAMarketplace.com is the realization of the ERA's commitment to surrounding our members with state-of-the-art support for their business needs,” Myers said.

The deal with DPI has been two years in the making, as the ERA has continually deferred naming other processing companies as a partner in search of the right one, Myers said. The ERA received bids from about half a dozen companies before selecting DPI.

“The endorsement culminates a two-year search for a merchant credit card partner to provide competitive rates to our members in the unique environment of electronic retailing,” Myers said.

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