Canadian e-tailers trade tips on wooing online consumers

Run with this Goldilocks and the three bears analogy for Canadian e-commerce: the consumer is Goldilocks and three different e-commerce sites represent her options in the bear’s home.

Goldilocks has them open in three different browser tabs. One of them is pricy, but will ship to her within 48 hours. Another features discount prices, but a longer wait for shipping and a chance the product might not be available at all. The last offers a wide selection of goods with prices close to MSRP and ships within three days. As for what’s “just right” – well that all depends on just what type of shopper Goldilocks is.

At this week’s Mesh Marketing conference in Toronto, three e-commerce businesses discussed how to win over Canadian consumers. Each had a different approach to success, and each had different challenges to share. Here’s a quick look at their observations:

Hicham Ratnani, co-founder, Frank & Oak

Canadians can be more lenient consumers than Americans, this Montreal-based online clothing merchant observes. There’s just not as many options for online shopping north of the border.

“They are easier to deal with sometimes, it’s a big opportunity,” he says.

Frank & Oak designs and makes its own line of menswear, so supply isn’t an issue – it doesn’t have to rely on getting the product from someone else. But Canada still presents a logistical challenge to an e-tailer that promises quick shipping times.

“We’re not at a scale yet of opening up distribution centres across North America,” Ratnani says. “We still market in Vancouver, but sadly the experience is not as optimal as clients have to wait longer to get things.”

Yona Shtern, CEO, Beyond the Rack

The Canadian online marketplace has arrived, Schtern says, and now it’s a matter of supplying it. His discount store Beyond the Rack finds deals from other merchants and moves the stock to customers looking for a deal. But the low prices come at a tradeoff – buyers might have to wait for the shipment, and five per cent of the time, the item won’t be available at all.

“You don’t get it overnight and we don’t offer free shipping, but you don’t pay $280 for a pair of Uggz, you pay $85,” he says.

So education is a key part of the site’s communication efforts. To that end, a call is made to every first time customer, so they know what to expect. It helps create good customer loyalty.

Drew Green, CEO and chairman of Shop.ca

When larger retailers entered Canada’s e-commerce market and enjoyed success, Green knew suppliers were ready for it. Launching Shop.ca, he set off to create a transparent experience for consumers – the price seen on a product is the price paid – no shipping, tax included.

Shop.ca is also looking to build the community aspect of its site with a focus on discussions about brands. It’s offering loyalty rewards for participating in discussions on its forums, and is experimenting with promoted Tweets to target different segments.

Brian JacksonBrian Jackson is the Editor at ITBusiness.ca. E-mail him at bjackson@itbusiness.ca, follow him on Twitter, connect on , read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.
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