EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 333 - April 21, 2013 - ISSN 1528-6703     2 of 6

Shop.ca Marketplace Caters to Canadian Shoppers

By Greg Holden

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Online sellers located "south of the border" - south of the border with Canada, that is - are facing some new competition for Canadian shoppers from a marketplace that's less than a year old and has grown to over 500,000 members.

Shop.ca describes itself as a marketplace built by Canadians for Canadians that reaches out to local consumers with rewards and loyalty programs. Consumers in that country who are tired of paying high shipping charges when they make purchases online, find it an attractive alternative.

That is the view of Christian Rodericks, vice-president of marketplace operations with Shop.ca, who leads all merchant integrations and operations. The marketplace was launched in July 2012, and by the fourth quarter of 2012 was among the top ten most visited Canadian ecommerce sites.

The company's founders, CEO Drew Green and President Trevor Newell, set out to address the "massive challenges that existed for Canadian consumers in terms of consistency, transparency, and availability to access quality ecommerce in Canada" when they began developing the site in 2009, says Rodericks. Now, SHOP.CA is the fastest growing retail site in Canada with millions of products listed across 25 different sales categories, he says.

Advantages for Canadian Shoppers
Shipping is one of Shop.ca's biggest advantages. Items listed on Shop.ca are offered with free shipping and free returns and no cross-border charges or duty fees. This approach "takes the fuss out of shopping online for consumers nationally," he says.

Shop.ca's Facebook points to one reason for its rapid growth: rewards, prizes, and loyalty campaigns designed to build goodwill and promote Canadian items and brands that might not be well-known in the U.S.

Every few days, a contest or offer appears on the Facebook page as well as references to well-known Canadian merchants like the Tim Hortons restaurant chain and actors like Jason Priestley. The site attracts shoppers with Rewards dollars on purchases and social sharing activities. "For example, sharing a link to a favorite product with a friend or posting a review to a social media platform like Facebook or Twitter increases a customer's Reward status and helps them move up the Reward cash ladder," says Rodericks.

Information for Retailers and Manufacturers
Shop.ca calls itself a Marketplace as a Service (MaaS) platform that makes it easy for merchants to integrate and maintain a store. The Shop.ca marketplace "empowers small, medium and large-sized merchants wanting to use the Internet as a sales channel."

Shop.ca assigns each merchant partner an ecommerce consultant who will help them participate in promotions and other ways to improve their Shop.ca store. The marketplace says it appeals to Canadian shoppers with a universal free shipping and returns policy, a social loyalty network, vast selection across one cart and one account, along with a Canadian-powered service team.

It offers merchants no setup fees, no monthly fees and no minimum commitments. Merchants provide inventory and ship product, and Shop.ca pays them for product and delivery services.

Mark Hebert, President and CEO of Cosmo Music of Richmond Hill, Ontario, was one of Shop.ca's first suppliers and said his brick-and-mortar stores is one of the largest musical instrument stores in the world. He described Shop.ca as more of a partnership than eBay or Amazon. "The fulfilling partner is more involved in the process and is not hidden from the consumer," he said.

There is continual communication and effort between Shop.ca and merchant partners on how to effectively increase sales and promote items over the Shop.ca network. "Shop.ca's reach across the country is extreme, their advertising spend is great, and they are able to communicate more effectively to a demographic that for us would be difficult - parents and purchasers of student instruments," Hebert said.

Hebert relies on Shop.ca for online sales - he doesn't offer online sales to the U.S. at this time, "although we get many inquiries on some of our exclusive products." He confirmed that he sells to Canadian residents with free shipping and free returns. "It cost us nothing to host our products on their site but we pay fees as we sell items."

Relentless Focus
When asked if there is anything different in ecommerce in Canada compared to ecommerce in the U.S., Rodericks said that "Canadians are one of the highest per capita online spenders; yet today, more than two thirds of that money goes south of the border. Canadians have spoken clearly with their hard earned money and say they want the convenience of shopping from anywhere at any time."

The marketplace is combating the misconception the logistics for selling online in Canada are prohibitive because the country is so large, he added. Ecommerce providers like Shopify and Demac Media are available for small and medium-sized businesses, as well as IBM, whose Websphere Commerce platform is built in Canada.

Rodericks offered two tips for other online businesses based on his experience with Canadian ecommerce. "First, you must have a relentless focus on the customer to be truly successful," he said. "This is more than a corporate principle or poster on the wall. It means doing the right thing over doing things right. For example, we sent a Shop.ca customer's son a signed Brett Lawrie Blue Jay's jersey to help celebrate her Jays-loving son's birthday. Yes it was extra time and money, but empowering the team to deliver honest, sincere, over-the-top amazing customer service is priceless in the long run."

Second, he added, stay true to your mission while adapting to changes and learning from failures. "Having the confidence to take risks and bold steps is important to a company's success, so long as you handle change with agility. At Shop.ca we're constantly trying new ideas and measuring every aspect of our business. Some ideas work and some don't, but we're all marching towards the same mission of becoming Canada's number one online shopping destination."

Learn more about selling on Shop.ca on this page.


About the author:

Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.


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