When a web search for a local merchant comes up empty, the business can seem diminished. What's on that café’s menu? When does the doctor’s office open? What band’s playing tonight? You mean that mechanic everybody’s endorsing doesn’t even have a website?

Well, that could all change. A startup plans to use acquirers to promote the low-cost, hassle-free sites it wants to create for the 50% of Tier 4 small merchants too intimidated or too pressed-for-time to set up their own.

Redmond, Wash.-based AME Commerce requires just eight or nine data points, such as name, address, city and state, to set up the sites, says CEO Manish Gaudi.

“We can spin out a fully functional, 100% comprehensive web presence for the merchant,” Gaudi says. “We’re trying to reach the masses with our product through the acquiring and [independent sales organization] channel.”

His system combines the four main elements of sites – layout, widgets, images and text – in differing combinations that yield decidedly different sites for two barber shops across the street from each other, Gaudi says.

“From a merchant’s perspective, they care less about it being totally different. They care more about just not having to do any work,” he says.

Just the same, the company plans to create more combinations to keep the sites looking distinctive in merchant categories where they’re building a lot of sites.

Other features can dress up the sites. The sites can integrate with Facebook, Yelp and Google+. The company integrates less often with Twitter because small businesses don’t use it that much, Gaudi says.

Yelp reviews power a testimonials page on the sites. Merchants appreciate favorable reviews, especially if it requires no effort, he says.

“What’s cool about this is that they don’t have to do any work to get that page with people saying good things about their business,” Gaudi continues. “They don’t type it in; they don’t have to structure anything.”

The Yelp feature runs on a 24-hour basis, so the system does not significantly delay good reviews, he says.

In another example of using third-party data, AME posts Google Maps and Google Street View images on the merchants’ “about us” pages.

“Everyone wants to show where their business is, but it’s annoying to wire all that stuff up together,” Gaudi says. “And it’s hard because, as a merchant, they don’t really know how to use any of that. All we need is their address.”

Using a simple administrative tool, merchants can change the sites if they don’t like the vendor’s choice of images or wording.

In the future, the company may customize the sites for merchants willing to pay an additional fee.

AME also can create e-commerce-enabled sites, and merchants can upload their products to them, he notes. The payment gateway integration is on the backend.

The company uses whatever gateway ISOs prefer, Gaudi says.

AME started in January and is still working on financing.

Gaudi’s in discussions with about “three dozen ISOs” that are considering promoting the product. None have signed up because they’re still talking about white-labeling and setup, Gaudi says.

A dozen merchants are using the sites in tests, he notes.

ISOs will determine how much merchants pay for the sites, but he expects an average of about $10 per month for sites that aren’t enabled for e-commerce and about double that for e-commerce sites, Gaudi says.

ISOs will pay an upfront setup fee, followed by a monthly fee for each merchant, he says.

Some ISOs may choose to provide the sites for free and consider their fees a marketing expense, Gaudi says.

He views the sites as beneficial for merchants and acquirers.

“The only thing I’m disrupting,” he maintains, “is a very inefficient web designer market that charges $5,000 a site.”

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