The evo­lu­tion of shop­ping

How Ot­tawa is tak­ing a bite out the U.S. e-com­merce mar­ket

Ottawa Business Journal - Techopia - - E-commerce - WRIT­TEN BY EL­IZ­A­BETH HOW­ELL PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY MARK HOLLERON

Perched on high stools, their faces ar­ti­fi­cially blushed un­der the Mer­cury Lounge’s pink­ish stage light­ing, sev­eral Ot­tawa e-com­merce providers gave their take on the mar­ket they play within.

Smart­phones have rev­o­lu­tion­ized ev­ery­thing, re­quir­ing new site lay­outs with less in­ten­sive graph­ics that must avoid Flash in case shop­pers are us­ing an iPhone. Re­tail­ers are ex­am­in­ing items tra­di­tion­ally dif­fi­cult to sell on the In­ter­net – like ap­pli­ances – to see how they can move them to “ brick-and-click” stores over brick-and-mor­tar.

Still, the ban­ter be­tween lo­cal firms Shopify, Nap­kyn, Cac­tus Com­merce and other pan­el­lists at Novem­ber’s OCRI smarTALKS event paled to the larger prob­lem for Ot­tawa’s e-com­merce firms: the lack of a strong Cana­dian mar­ket­place, at least in com­par­i­son with the United States.

In­deed, when Ot­tawa com­pa­nies play in that south­ern field, they of­ten do ex­traor­di­nar­ily well.

Take Shopify. In 2010, the four-year-old firm was OBJ’s fastest-grow­ing lo­cal com­pany, with 1,174-per-cent growth over its past three fis­cal years. It also landed a $7-mil­lion ven­ture cap­i­tal deal with U.S. ven­ture capi- tal­ists this past De­cem­ber.

Like its com­peti­tors in Canada and the U.S., most of its busi­ness is south of the bor­der.

The in­ter­est­ing part about this ques­tion is in the case of Shopify – with more than 10,000 users – 80 per cent or more of users are lo­cated in the United States,” said Har­ley Finkel­stein, Shopify’s di­rec­tor of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and gen­eral coun­sel, in De­cem­ber.

“ We are strong in the United States, but that’s maybe a chicken-and-egg ques­tion – is it be­cause they like our plat­form, or do we

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