By Aimee Chanthadavong
Westfield launched the first online shopping mall last November in a bid to win over online shoppers taking advantage of the e-tailing market. It offered its bricks and mortar retailers the opportunity to operate as part of the online realm under its virtual shopping centre.
A similar offer, called Shoptown.com.au, will be launched next April.
But unlike Westfield’s online shopping mall that represents medium to large retailers, Terrence Levin, Shoptown managing director, told RetailBiz, Shoptown’s online shopping mall will be for small to medium retailers.
“We will be limiting the amount of stores we take on that sell the same goods. We want our shops to do well and our customers to only deal with quality retailers. We will not have any "only online" shops. All will be real bricks and mortar shops,” he said.
It will launch with 50 to 100 shops, targeting to have up to 300 on board by the end of next year. Customers will be able to make their purchases on the site without leaving Shoptown.
“Our difference from other marketplaces is that we are not a referral site that charges every time someone clicks on a shop. Our main charges are activated by actual sales. Customers can buy from multiple shops in one transaction and checkout once. They are not sent out of shoptown.com.au to multiple sites, all products are hosted on our site,” Levin said.
According to Levin, operating a small to medium business can be difficult to become successful online because of costs, expertise and time but believes Shoptown will change that.
“Our job is then to bring customers to the site to shop with our member retailers. By utilising our services and becoming part of our shopping centre, they are gaining expertise, technology and marketing at a very minimal cost in both time and money. We also have negotiated some fantastic extra benefits for our member retailers,” he said.
“We also offer a personal service to assist our member retailers in getting their shops on and becoming successful online. We currently offer a very unique service in the online marketplace in that we take care of all the hosting, search engine optimisation, marketing, advertsing etc.
“Retailers on shoptown.com.au will have the opportunity to sell online to customers all over the country that they would not otherwise have access to. Similar to being in an actual shopping centre, all our member shops need to do is merchandise their store well and sell.”
Levin also highlighted the importance that retailers need an online presence to remain competitive.
“The large Australian retailers are now starting to make their presence felt online. The trend is starting to move towards sites that can provide a one stop shop environment. eBay have been very successful at this and Westfield have recently opened an online store. I think a retailers greatest chance of success is to create a presence in multiple places.”