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I just checked my email and came across a notice from ECMTA (E-Commerce Merchants Trade Association) about their upcoming Seller Conference in New Orleans. Heres what it had to say:
Word is spreading fast and registrations are pouring in for the 2008 New Orleans eCommerce Summit in April. With almost 3 months to go we have easily surpassed the 100 attendee mark which is helping us attract even MORE sponsors than previous events!

In fact, for the first time ever, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is sponsoring the eCommerce Summit and is working with us to make a grand introduction that includes a very generous Special Offer for attendees.
This was curious to me because when you think of Microsoft, you certainly don't think of ecommerce, but with the news of the past week about Microsoft acquiring Yahoo, it does seem to make sense. Sure, the Microsoft/Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) deal may take a year to actually happen, but Microsoft has signalled with this sponsorship of ECMTA, that they are going to be reaching out to online sellers. I wonder why? :)

For years, sellers have been crying out for more competition for eBay. Most of this centered around other options for Auctions and most of those attempts failed. A few still exist and are modestly succesful but are mostly based overseas (ebid.net and Tasbar), but Amazon has done a great job at attracting online sellers to their platform for fixed price items; Google has several offerings for sellers (Checkout, AdWords and Product Search), Yahoo has the #1 Shopping Comparison Engine in Yahoo! Shopping and Yahoo! Stores the #1 Platform for independent websites (if you exclude eBay Stores); Classifieds sites like Craiglist and Kijiji are growing like crazy and Microsoft has ... well they have ... hmm, they may soon have Yahoo!

In addition to the big guys, media sellers have Play.com, Alibris and AbeBooks; Hand crafters have Etsy; Ticket sellers have StubHub and TicketsNow. The list of options is growing every year, so eBay sellers, Amazon Sellers and independent online sellers will see more options as 2008 unfolds; This year will be the year when sellers/merchants get the upper hand with the marketplaces.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2004 there were over 19 million firms that didn't have employees (sole proprietors) and I'm sure, many millions more around the globe. Only a fraction of them are actually conducting business on the Web -- that will all change as the barriers to entry come down and the options increase.

When I was a seller, only 2 years ago, I had to pay $80,000 for my website, in order to get the functionally that I required. Today, I could do it for under $100 a month. When I was selling, the only really viable competitor to eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) was Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and they were just starting to promote their 3P (Third Party Seller) business. Now, there are many options and the cost of entry is getting cheaper every year.

What will happen when Microsoft is added to the mix with Yahoo's ecommerce offerings? I can tell you this -- they are going to be aggressive at getting your business. Remember, Microsoft is the company that gave away Internet Explorer to compete against Netscape and we all know what happened there. Do any of us remember, Lotus or WordPerfect? Sure Microsoft hasn't been able to get the same bang for their buck on the web, but what do you think will happen when they add Yahoo! Shopping, Yahoo! Stores, Yahoo Japan and Alibaba? Soon, eBay may be just another venue.

Just my 5 cents!

Disclosure: None