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Liberty Media's CommerceHub Acquires E-Commerce Adviser Mercent

12/18/2014 | 03:29pm US/Eastern
By Greg Bensinger 

Liberty Media's CommerceHub is set to announce Thursday it has agreed to acquire e-commerce advisory firm Mercent as it seeks to broaden its clients' reach online, particularly through Amazon Inc. and Google Inc.

CommerceHub helps retailers control maintain their inventory by connecting them to suppliers that can ship goods directly to consumers. Mercent advises companies on their online marketing strategy including pricing and search-engine optimization, the art of getting products to the top of search results.

The combination will allow retailers like Sears and Best Buy to turn to a central hub from which they can both manage their inventory more efficiently and get help plotting their online marketing strategy. Terms of the deal, which is expected to close in January, weren't disclosed.

"The number of places where shoppers can buy things today is growing," including directly through social media websites like Twitter and Facebook and, possibly soon, through Google search results, said Eric Best, Mercent's chief executive. "So it's getting more difficult for retailers to ensure they deliver the same experience, the same inventory, on every channel."

Frank Poore, CommerceHub CEO, said the acquisition will give his operation access to and data from marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, venues in which the Albany, N.Y., firm doesn't participate today. His company helps retailers avoid the cost of building large warehouses and managing inventory by connecting orders directly to manufacturers that ship the merchandise to customers, which is known as drop shipping.

CommerceHub has 210 employees and $8 billion in annual gross merchandise volume, compared with Mercent's 90 employees and roughly $2 billion in goods sold. Mercent is backed by $17 million from Madrona Venture Group, an early Amazon investor, The Hillman Company and private-equity fund TVC Capital.

Mr. Best, who founded Mercent in 2005, will become chief marketing officer of CommerceHub.

Write to Greg Bensinger at greg.bensinger@wsj.com

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