Tag Archives: SmartBrideBoutique.com

Canadian E-Commerce Innovators

I have read countless articles about how Canada is falling behind in E-Commerce in terms of usage and innovation.  The situation in Canada has always been a chicken and egg scenario where Canadian retailers are hesitant to invest in E-Commerce because there is not enough online shopping volume happening here and vice versa.  However, I mentioned in a previous article on Techvibes that there is an emerging interest by Canadian retailers to increase their investment in online shopping platforms.

While not all of our retailers are jumping on board just yet, there is a sense of urgency by others to catch-up with what US retailers are doing or risk losing businesss.  With the Canadian dollar at par with the US, Canada’s retailers know that they might lose business to US websites because of better deals and better selection online.  However, perhaps the solution is not to mimick the US but to find innovative ways to compliment or enhance the online shopping experience to suit Canadian online behaviours.

I thought it was worth highlighting some Canadian E-Commerce startups who are innovating in the retail space in Canada right now.  This list is in no particular order of preference.

  • Well.ca – You might have already heard of this online retail start-up as they have been making a lot of noise and gaining a lot of ground lately.  Ali Asaria, who has been profiled in many Canadian publications including The Globe and Mail and Sprouter, started the online health and beauty store in his father’s basement. Well.ca takes a very personable and Canadian approach to running an online shopping site.  They include hand-written notes in all of their boxes that are shipped to customers for free.  They also ship to the US, which reverses the trend that we see for many Canadian retailers. Well.ca has also been part of a grass roots initiative called ECommerceCamp to try and impact the growth of the online retail industry in Canada.
  • Wishabi.ca – Wishabi is a Canadian online comparison shopping startup that provides Canadian shopping intelligence from over 500 stores across Canada and the US. They help online shoppers to review multiple merchants at a glance, find deals and helpful recommendations, shop both sides of the border with all fees included, and discover unique products with personalized shopping profiles. Their website takes a fresh approach to the Canadian shopping trend of researching online and purchasing in-store.  They make it easy for Canadian online shoppers to get all of the information they need in one place.
  • ClipMobile – This Canadian mobile startup has developed a location-based mobile coupon application that enables Canadians to download coupons for free directly from their smartphones.  The fee is covered by merchants who pay a yearly subscription based on the number of locations at which they wish to offer coupons.  Again, this business compliments the Canadian tendency to research products and deals online and then buy in-store.
  • Recarter.com – This Canadian E-Commerce innovation tool is launching soon and will help online retailers to recoup some of their lost sales from abandoned shopping carts.  The shopping cart abandonment issue is a global issue and Recarter’s solution could not only help retailers in Canada but any retailer who would like to recover lost sales.  Who wouldn’t want that?
  • SmartBrideBoutique.com – SmartBride is a premium classifieds website that enables recent brides to recoup up to 50% of their wedding costs while helping brides-to-be to save on their upcoming wedding.  It is both a budget-savvy and eco-friendly concept for online shopping in Canada and the US. SmartBride is also taking a very unique approach to helping Bridal store retailers to sell off unsold inventory online.
  • Trimirror.com – triMirror is a website where users can upload photos of themselves via their smartphones to share pictures and fashion ideas, get fitting advice and styling tips in real-time. You can ask their community for advice, or customize your audience to folks with similar fashion tastes.
  • WagJag.com – This wouldn’t be a blog about online shopping if I didn’t mention at least one group buying website.  WagJag launched during the height of the group buying craze that has happened in the last 12 to 18 months.  They are a member of the TorStar Digital family of properties and have had tremendous success in the group buying market in Canada to date.

This is just a short list of websites that I have heard about recently and is not, by any means, complete.  If you know of other Canadian E-Commerce or online shopping startups worth mentioning, please let me know and I will add them to the growing list.


The Next Evolution in Canadian Peer to Peer Communities

I mentioned in an earlier blog that niche social networks are steadily on the rise in Canada.  I am seeing a similar splintering effect happening in the peer-to-peer classifieds space.  Canadian start-ups are carving out niche sites that appeal to a very focused set of shoppers and are finding unique ways to monetize these sites – something that Craigslist will not do.  Sites like Kijiji and eBay definitely make money off of their sites but they do not offer the niche targeted audience that advertisers are seeking.  Another benefit to a niche classifieds site is the ability to build a community around that niche and position oneself as an expert in that audience’s set of interests.

Here are some of the top niche peer-to-peer classified sites/communities that I have discovered to date:

  • iStopOver.comFounded in Toronto, this international travel website helps travellers to save money and find a furnished apartment or house to rent when travelling abroad.  Their services came in handy for two recent international sporting events, including the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.  iStopOver’s competitive advantage is that they build trust with their users by holding the guest’s money on their behalf until confirmation of a reservation (i.e. the guest shows up and the place is to their satisfaction), and releases it directly to the renter/host once the guest approves to check-in.
  • SmartBrideBoutique.comThis Toronto-based start-up is focused on helping brides to save money on their wedding by purchasing gently used wedding products (i.e. wedding dresses, decor, accessories, etc.) from recent brides.  It’s a win-win situation where brides-to-be can save up to 50% on their wedding items and recent brides can recoup some of their wedding costs. Check out my previous post about how these ladies inspire me.
  • CardSwap.caHave you ever been given a gift card to a store where you would never shop?  CardSwap helps you to swap gift cards for other ones with other local Canadian users.  Or, you can exchange the gift card for money.
  • JobDeals.comI just heard about these guys at last night’s Sprouter event.  JobDeals is a local job help resource which allows users to post their needs for local services and allows job seekers to pitch/bid on the work opportunity.
  • CommunityLend.com – This website must have been a savior to a number of people in the recent economic meltdown. CommunityLend is a destination where borrowers can lower their loan rates by auctioning off their loans to lenders who bid at the offered interest rate on your loan request until enough bids are made to cover the value of your loan.   This service is currently only available in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.
  • 1DegreeBio – A reader just sent me some information on this site.  You can’t get any more niche than hosting a marketplace for sourcing antibodies online! They have implemented an independent review process for scientists to rate and review products that are essential to their research. They are building a community to set a new quality standard in the raw materials that are the foundations of scientific research and discovery.

If I have missed any really important sites, definitely let me know.

Inspiration: Why SmartBrideBoutique.com is a True Labour of Love

Andrea Lown (left) and Leah Andrew (right) from SmartBrideBoutique.com

I had the privilege of working with some remarkable women this summer who have shown me what it means to truly love your job. Andrea Lown and Leah Andrew from SmartBrideBoutique.com found their inspiration for starting their business while each planning the wedding of their dreams. They soon realized that it’s tough to find the ultimate wedding dress on a tight budget.

They knew that there had to be a better way to find a beautiful wedding gown for less and so they turned to the Internet to look for deals. However, what they found was that the shopping experience on sites like Kijiji and Craigslist is not conducive to easily browsing postings and searching for specific designers and sizes.

So, they decided to develop a way to make it easier for budget-savvy brides to shop online while also dreaming up a concept that was good for the environment. They ended up building an easy to use online platform that helps brides-to-be to save up to 50% on their wedding dress while helping recent brides to recoup some of the costs from their wedding by recycling their wedding dress, decor, accessories and more.

What I find so inspiring about watching Andrea and Leah work together is not only their great and often hilarious rapport with each other, but also their tireless efforts to make their company a success. What is also incredibly refreshing to see is that both the idea for their business and their willpower to succeed are born out of the same motivation – love. If it weren’t for love, they wouldn’t have had weddings and discovered a business opportunity. In addition, if they didn’t love what they do on a daily basis then they wouldn’t be so determined to grow their business.

Having worked with Andrea Lown in the past, I know that she is not one to settle for less than the best. After her honeymoon, she too was looking for a new job and realized that if the right one wasn’t out there, then she’d just have to go out and create it for herself.

These ladies have no idea how much they’ve inspired me. A Facebook “like” button on their site does not express how much I have enjoyed watching their online business grow and thrive. Facebook, please develop a “love” button!

Read more about Andrea and Leah’s business here: http://t.co/AUO841M

Watch Andrea and Leah talk about how to stretch your wedding budget: