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Here’s the best services online writes, Jennifer DudleyNicholson
AUSTRALIA is one of the most internet-savvy nations in the world. More than 17 million Australians are online, giving the country more internet users per capita than the United States, Britain or Japan. It’s little wonder, then, that Australians are creating some of the most innovative online services in the world.
Switched On has scoured the web for the best available services, both for local and international users, and outlines five of the best.
MOBILE MONEY mhits.com.au
PAYING small debts and buying coffee can be done with a simple text message. Entrepreneur Harold Dimpel started work on the idea five years ago and the resulting service, mHITs, has now gone international. The idea was inspired by the difficulty involved in paying small amounts by credit card. ‘‘It was really messy,’’ Dimpel says. ‘‘Instead of exchanging coins between friends it made sense to use a mobile phone.’’ mHITs works by using your phone number as an account number. mHITs account holders can then send money from their account to friends or businesses by using SMS commands such as ‘‘pay (mobile number) $5’’. Dimpel says mHITs is being trialled in cafes and food joints, including a Sydney Subway restaurant, letting customers order and pay for purchases before they arrive.
CUSTOMISED CARDS yellowpostie.com.au
FINDING the perfect greeting card can be an impossible mission. It is a dilemma Matt Samford addresses with Yellow Postie that lets users add their photos, words and even handwriting to greeting cards. The former printing industry executive says he spent two years building the site to breathe new life into a stale market. ‘‘Everyone asks if it’s for e-cards but it’s actually a really nice printed card that you can order and have posted any time of the day or night,’’ Samford says. Users can add photos of recipients to create personalised Christmas cards, unique postcards, or birthday cards that look like a scandalous magazine cover (‘‘Wino Weekly,’’ Samford suggests). Orders can be posted directly to the recipient the day they are ordered and prices start at $5.95. Samford says the company has also added a calendar to remind users of important dates and the company plans to offer customised cards for businesses soon.
AMERICAN SHOPPING priceusa.com.au
SOME American stores discriminate against Australian addresses. It is a problem Bendigo-based shopper Dr Carolina Tillett experienced when trying to buy superhero-themed party supplies for her son, and it gave her a winning idea. The motherof-three advertised for shopping agents in the US to buy items on her behalf and then opened Price USA to buy items for Australian shoppers. ‘‘Initially I thought it would just be parents buying birthday presents, but I received orders for laptops, phones, speakers and everything,’’ she says. Price USA is a three-person operation, with Tillett taking requests in Australia and sending them to two Oregon-based shopping agents. Users request a quote before placing an order, with Tillett charging a flat 5 per cent fee. Tillett receives 100 orders a day and plans to expand Price USA to Europe in future.
TABLETS AT THE TABLE ipadmenu.com.au
ONE Sydney restaurant has used the technology to swap menus for iPads and Wayne Roby hopes more will do the same. The 20-year hospitality veteran from Enhanced Business Solutions has created a commercial iPad app that restaurant, cafe and bar owners can use to make their menus digital. Roby says iPadMenu took three months to develop and lets restaurants offer more to diners. ‘‘You can add photos of the food and drink so customers will order more,’’ he says. ‘‘There’s also a feedback function so you can present it to a table when diners get their bill and they can tell you what they thought about the meal. You can also change the menu easily or add information about allergens and feature items. It’s not a substitute for a waiter, but it gives diners more.’’ iPadMenu costs $250 plus a $20 monthly fee for each iPad licence, though the company is developing further apps that can be used on cheaper tablets such as those using Google Android software.
CATCHING BARGAINS catchoftheday.com.au
AUSTRALIA’S biggest online department store started in a Sydney garage with a staff of six. Since its 2006 beginning, Catch of the Day has racked up millions of sales and a number of unusual milestones. They include selling 320,000 chocolates in a day, 1998 laptops in an hour, and $1.1 million worth of LCD TVs in an hour. Founder Gabby Leibovich started the business with his brother Hezi after seeing a similar American website selling just one item each day. Leibovich says he focussed his sales pitch on local business, asking ‘‘what do you have in large volumes that you just don’t want to see any more?’’ Catch of the Day offers these items at a discounted price. Leibovich says the 65-employee company will continue to expand next year.