Topica Makes Play for eBay Sellers

Seven months after sealing a deal to provide PayPal functionality to its newsletter customers, email technology provider Topica struck an agreement with PayPal parent company eBay to give users a similar capability for auctions.

The partnership gives users of Topica Email Publisher the ability to include a button in newsletters to direct readers to eBay to bid on or buy an item, see all the items a seller has on offer, or visit the seller’s eBay store.

“We’re finding that our customers are increasingly using email to bring prospective buyers back to their sites to do the purchasing,” said Anna Zornosa, Topica’s chief executive and president. “E-commerce has been the last to do email because linking the customer back to your site has been so critical.”

Since its launch in May 2001, Topica Email Publisher has gained 2,000 clients, according to Zornosa, delivering over 1 billion email newsletters and discussion group messages. According to Jupiter Research, email marketers will spend $1.4 billion this year, growing to $8.3 billion in 2007

By working with eBay, San Francisco-based Topica was able to integrate the auction-button option directly into the Topica interface, giving newsletter publishers and email marketers an easy point-and-click option to include a direct link to their auction items. Zornosa said a primary concern, for both companies, was protecting its users privacy.

The partnership deal, which did not involve financial considerations, follows up on an identical agreement in May with then-independent PayPal to include a PayPal button in newsletters. Likewise, that deal was designed to allow Topica to tap into the growing number of small businesses using email as a direct-marketing e-commerce tool.

Zornosa said the PayPal deal worked both ways: many of PayPal’s 16 million users were interested in email marketing, while Topica’s email publishers were interested in using PayPal to facilitate e-commerce transactions.

“When we saw how much interest among that community,” she said, “it was natural for us to see how we could include eBay community.”

With nearly 50 million registered eBay users and $5 billion of goods exchanging hands last year, Topica hopes to tap into a rich market.

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