New Web site simplifies online hunt for Boxing day bargains

With the number of online shoppers increasing 40 per cent over the last two years, according to Statistics Canada, and retail sales expecting to plummet, PayPal Canada and a group of online retailers are trying to encourage holiday bargain-hunters to stay glued to their computer chair for one more day – Boxing Day.

According to a recent survey conducted by Ipsos-Reid on behalf of Paypal, 34 per cent of online Canadian shoppers plan to avoid the crowds on Dec. 26 and search for deals online.

A new Web site launched by PayPal will list a group of big retailers’ Boxing Day sales to help Canadian shoppers find the best bargains without trekking through jam-packed shopping malls. Some of these companies include Aldo and Lush, and online-only retailers such as and Tiger Direct.

The Web site gives shoppers a “sneak peek” at the sales they can expect for Boxing Day ahead of time and provides time to prepare, said Darrell MacMullin, country manager at PayPal Canada.

As 38 per cent of shoppers search for sales on Boxing Day, according to Ipsos-Reid, PayPal’s aim is to make the search for bargains easier and more convenient.

According to a report by Jeffrey Grau, senior analyst at eMarketer, many retailers are reducing merchandise inventory and cutting staff, but increasing spending on search engine marketing, banner ads and e-mail campaigns.

E-commerce sites that help consumers find good deals or cater to price-sensitive shoppers will do well this season, Grau said. Despite the gloomy outlook for retail stores this year, economic opportunities exist for comparison shopping sites and coupon sites.

Thirty-seven per cent of respondents to a recent survey of consumers’ holiday-shopping habits said they would be using comparison sites this year and 55 per cent said they would be doing most of their shopping online – up 10 per cent from last year.

A survey by Minneapolis-based investment banking firm, Piper Jaffray, revealed more than four times as many Internet users said they would increase – rather than decrease – their online comparison shopping.

Small Web retailers that offer unique products will attract shoppers as well as consumers fed up with poor customer service in malls.

The Ipsos-Reid poll found consumers love sales but hate crowded shopping malls, long lineups at the cash, driving to the mall and not being able to find what they need. Only 8 per cent of Canadians don’t dislike anything about Boxing Day shopping, with crowds and long lines being the top annoyances.

According to Arthur Radulescu, CEO of ShopMania, an online comparison shopping site, more shoppers are flocking to comparison shopping sites in search of finding the lowest priced item on their list.

“Because so many people are cutting back on their holiday spending and being more cautious this year, shopping comparison Web sites provide the easiest way to get the best possible prices on gifts from their list,” Radulescu said.  “These sites put the browsing, comparing of prices and actual buying all at one convenient location from your own desktop.”

More consumers are turning to online comparison sites because they provide the most substantial cost-savings to customers, Radulescu said.

“However consumers have also realized that the best price does not necessarily mean the best deal and comparison shopping is also helping them make better choices which are even more important.”

The demand for comparison sites has changed from the traditional comparison Web sites to social shopping, involving user-generated content and review, he said, as more and more consumers like shopping in a friendlier environment.

Jim Okamura, senior partner with global retail consulting outfit, J.C. Williams Group, said the Canadian market for comparison sites has been growing.

Canadians have recently crossed what he calls the “critical mass threshold” – which means online is generating enough volume of business to make e-commerce investments worthwhile.

“Shoppers are shifting their shopping behaviour to online and if sites prove they are worthwhile this trend will continue throughout the New Year. In fact, January usually sees a spike in online shopping sales as retailers try and clear out excess inventory.”

Okamura says it makes good business sense for retailers to be moving online. “[They] have to continue to grow their online capabilities or will miss out on a growing part of the retail industry.”

For comparison sites to continue to grow they will need to be built up in scale, Okamura said, and provide an all-encompassing look at what’s available.

He said if the site is not current and its links to retail sites do not take you to the exact item you were viewing, then comparison shopping can be seen as a drawback to many shoppers and they will simply begin their search at the retail site.

Radulescu said one drawback of online shopping is that price comparison Web sites favour their paying clients and present consumers with selective results.

“This is the business model for most of the price comparison sites. However, every consumer is still being presented with all choices with the option of comparing a variety of products and stores as well as make informed choices on what to buy.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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