CoolEh.com, Yahoo! Canada lure e-shoppers

Two new Canadian shopping sites are betting they can accomplish what few domestic dot-coms have so far been able to do - compel reluctant Canadian consumers to shop online....

Two new Canadian shopping sites are betting they can accomplish what few domestic dot-coms have so far been able to do – compel reluctant Canadian consumers to shop online.

‘Canadian consumers don’t buy much online, even though Canada has great Web access and computer penetration, and I believe that’s because there aren’t a lot of quality options. We’re going to solve that problem,’ says Stephen Miles, president of CoolEh.com.

According to J.C. Williams Group, only 27% of Canadian Web users have ever made an online purchase.

A joint venture between Torstar and Corus Entertainment, CoolEh.com is designed to bring together a cross-section of Canadian merchants – many of which have never had a Web presence – with countless Canadians who have never crossed the e-commerce hurdle.

Unlike typical online shopping malls, such as NorstarMall.com, which simply link consumers to the sites of participating retailers, CoolEh.com allows consumers to search by retailer, run price comparisons, browse by category and shop without leaving the site, says Miles.

CoolEh.com manages the entire transaction, he says, and boasts an airtight privacy policy to help ‘e-toddlers’ – a term coined by CoolEh.com to describe consumers who do not currently shop online – overcome their fears about security.

Retailers meanwhile, can have their sites built, hosted and e-commerce-enabled by CoolEh.com, he says, leaving them to take care of what they already know how to do – merchandising and fulfillment.

‘Rather than spending hundreds or even millions of dollars on building a Web site, retailers can spend a few thousand to have us build it for them, host it and provide all the marketing and consumer tools to get consumers to come to the site and buy,’ says Miles.

CoolEh.com, which charges retailers an annual fee for Web site development and takes a commission – typically 5% – on each purchase, launched last week with the participation of several medium-sized retailers, including Dragonfly Music, Cameron Books, Sunrise Records and ShopWireless.com. For now, says Miles, the site will focus on popular categories like music, books, videos, electronics and computers, but will broaden its offerings down the road. It is currently trying to sign up some of the larger Canadian retailers, he says.

Launching at the same time with a similar concept is Yahoo! Canada. As of Oct. 18, Canadians can access a new shopping service through Yahoo.ca. Like CoolEh.com, this site allows consumers to shop a variety of stores and make their purchases with a single payment. It also will reduce the time it takes to pay by having consumers enter their credit card information on only their first shopping excursion.

Unlike CoolEh.com, Yahoo! has banded together with many big-name retailers like The Brick, Indigo, and Sport Mart. It’s also the exclusive on-line shopping site for La Senza and the Body Shop. So far, 25 merchants have come on board, and getting in can cost as little as $150 per month, with added fees or cost-sharing depending on the level of service required.

‘With an audience of 150 million people worldwide who visit (Yahoo!) on a monthly basis, Canadian advertisers and merchants can tap into a huge and loyal following,’ says Lesley Wheldrake, associate brand manager at Yahoo! Canada. ‘That’s the selling feature.’

Both sites plan to leverage the reach provided by their owners. CoolEh.com will run newspaper and radio ads across Southern Ontario, and Yahoo! will use its portal as well as radio and outdoor advertising nationwide. Both parties plan to have their campaigns peak in December to drive traffic during the busy holiday shopping season.