In its quest to supply small businesses with services that go beyond payments, First Data Corp.'s Clover subsidiary is extending e-commerce website support to its merchant clients beginning next month, the company said April 20.

Clover Online Store will roll out in May, giving small-business customers a quick path to building their own e-commerce websites with virtual checkout and streamlined tools for connecting to search engines and social media.

Targeting local businesses that have one or a few locations, First Data has created an app for Clover merchants to build their own websites using an collection of templates, with the option to add their own shipping and delivery services, said Bruce Dragt, senior vice president of global e-commerce for First Data.

"We created this service because in our conversations with small businesses, we learned that a lot of them have a website they're not thrilled with, and they don't have time to devote to this sort of thing," Dragt said.

First Data developed Clover Online Store using technology and resources from Spree Commerce, an open-source provider of e-commerce services for small businesses the company acquired last year.

"We took Spree's technology and combined it with our payments infrastructure, creating an omnichannel dimension for small businesses," he said.

Clover Online Store automatically synchronizes with Clover merchants' existing data for products and services, but merchants can add or subtract the assortment of products sold on their website, Dragt noted.

Merchants typically use an existing URL, but for those without one, Clover Online Store can provide a website address, he said. The service will be free for Clover Station merchants this year, but in 2017 a monthly service charge of $29.95 will kick in.

Clover Online Store isn't the only mobile commerce solution offering website support; Square Inc. last year partnered with Bigcommerce and Weebly to provide e-commerce support for its merchants.

New York-based Omnisoft Inc. offers ShopFast, a white-label service sold through merchant acquirers that enables small businesses to easily integrate brick-and-mortar stores with websites, said Ronny Yakov, Omnisoft's CEO.

"Clearly, adding an e-commerce dimension is the next step for a lot of mobile point of sale vendors, as the push to open up the omnichannel spreads from the biggest merchants down to the smallest merchants," said Rick Oglesby, research director for Double Diamond Group.

The competition among payment services providers to enrich their offerings with e-commerce tools appears to be escalating fast, he added.

"Clover has a strong package of services, but like everybody in this niche, it's got a long way to go," Oglesby said.

It was no accident that First Data decided to turn over a new leaf in selecting a somewhat generic name for Clover's latest creation, Dragt said.

"We've acquired a lot of companies with names like Perka, we had Spree, so instead of coming up with something even more unusual for e-commerce services, we just decided to simplify and just go with something basic and descriptive," he said.

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