Search engine weasels into consumer minds

Search engine weasels into consumer minds

With 117,000 users in December, online shopping mall Ferrit got off to a busy start, although that figure dropped to around 80,000 last month.

Still, Ralph Brayham, Ferrit general manager, says he is pleasantly surprised by the traffic.

“I was expecting it to be a third of that, however Ferrit didn’t get the frequency of usage I would have liked. Of course when you do something like this you get emotionally involved,” he says.

When it went live in November Ferrit had 50 retailers on board; that number has now risen to 88 with a further 170 contracts in the pipeline.

Brayham’s target is to have 200 retailers online by the end of May.

Consumer electronics has proven to be the most popular category followed by music, whiteware and clothing.

Although Ferrit has signed several mass retailers — including Noel Leeming and Dick Smith Electronics — Brayham is determined to provide a level field for all players.

“I think it’s an indication of how successful we are that a lot of small businesses are coming through,” he says.

He estimates around one-third of traffic is redirected from Xtra’s now-closed shopping channel and says that is likely to continue.

Christchurch-based reseller TradePC had previously advertised on the shopping channel and, when it closed, decided to take a punt on the new site.

Gabriel Ionescu, general manager of TradePC, believes Ferrit could well be a huge channel for his company.

“We’re getting a fair amount of traffic and if the sales continue we’ll stick with it. If that is the case then TradePC will have one person dedicated to managing our Ferrit business,” he says.

Ionescu estimates only around 10% of TradePC’s products are listed on Ferrit in order to avoid competing with mass retailers. But he is not interested in getting involved in a comparison of products by price.

“I’ve tried to list products other’s don’t, otherwise it just comes down to price. Online you either sell products because you’re well known or the cheapest but it should be about the services provided to the customer.”

For Auckland reseller Digital Shop the site represents an opportunity to get its name known. “It’s a new concept with great potential. I think people will appreciate the ability to buy a range of products — not only IT — from one store,” says Digital Shop director Delwyn Smedley.

Smedley says she doesn’t worry about competing with larger retailers.

“We offer good prices and a great service and our product range isn’t always the same. I think there is scope for both to exist.”

Ferrit is planning to roll out phase two of its operation towards the end of June, taking the site from a search engine to one capable of processing transactions.

“The idea is to take e-commerce across hundreds of retailers so the customer can purchase a pen, an iPod and a shirt in the same shopping cart,” says Brayham.

Ferrit partnered with e-commerce specialist Conduit to launch the site and Brayham says his company is currently in the process of selecting a partner for the next phase.

“It requires a big, complex piece of software. Partnering is essential as the days of building from scratch are well over.”

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