Imagine this: Someone surfing the Web in the United States stumbles on a shoe store from a small Italian town. Instead of struggling through descriptions written in Italian and prices listed in lira, the Web site is in English, the prices are in dollars, and a credit card transaction is automatically processed in the shopper's currency, even at the merchant's bank in Rome.
A new company, Planet Payment, is working to make shopping at online merchants from other countries as easy as if the merchant were in the next state.
The New York start-up lets Internet merchants post different versions of their Web site in different countries, complete with the local language and currency. Through an alliance announced this week with Trintech Group, a digital wallet company, Planet Payment also plans to offer banks around the world multicurrency credit card processing for Internet transactions.
Planet Payment can make a small company "feel like they're in the customer's country," said Thomas DeLuca, the start-up's vice president of business development and a former American Express lawyer. "It's the localization of e-commerce."
Though most credit card issuers in the United States automatically convert foreign transactions into dollar terms on the cardholder's statement, many banks in other countries are unable to process U.S. currency, Mr. DeLuca said.
So far, Planet Payment's largest merchant base is in Canada, where Internet merchants are hungry to sell their products in the U.S. market, Mr. DeLuca said. "Their credit card networks aren't as sophisticated as in the U.S."
Planet Payment has signed up about 300 merchants in 30 countries and says it has been growing rapidly.
"Multicurrency Internet payment processing is clearly a niche waiting to be filled," said John McGuire, chief executive officer at Trintech in San Mateo, Calif.
Planet Payment says it will offer banks Trintech's PayWare eAcquirer technology, which makes Internet credit card transactions read as real-world transactions. Then using its own technology, the company translates the payment made in the buyer's currency into the merchant's currency.
The eAcquirer technology is able to route e-commerce transactions to more than 100 banks in Trintech's and Planet Payment's network, letting these banks offer secure multicurrency Internet processing services to their merchants, the companies said.
Trintech and Planet Payment said they plan to begin a joint marketing effort in the next six to eight months. One market where Planet Payment is developing a large presence, Asia/Pacific, is a target of Trintech's as well.
"We see Asia/Pacific as a big growth market for us," said Richard Martin, a spokesman for Trintech. "We'll be able to go in and cross-sell technology; we could go in and talk to banks who are using one service from Planet Payment and sell them our virtual credit card technology, for example."
Planet Payment has offices in Scotland and Ireland and is about to open one in Singapore. Trintech also has a headquarters in Ireland.