As a Canadian and online shopping buff, when it comes to comparison shopping, I can't help but ask "what about us Canucks?" Although the Loon is quickly catching the Greenback in terms of value (so I feel less buyers remorse picking up cross-border e-schwag), my heart sinks whenever I see free shipping only available in the US, or when I have to pay an extra $13 bucks duty when I pick up my package at the Post Office.
There is definitely a lot of potential in the online comparison shopping sphere in Canada, but there are some Canadian comparison shopping engines!
With the exception of Shoptoit.ca, the Canadian shopping comparison engines play it safe, sticking with low-risk computer, electronic and DVD items. For this mini-review, I decided to search for "Canon Powershot" and compare the number of products delivered by each engine, and what user features were available to help compare products and identify Canadian etailers, as well as any potential usability issues.
|Unlike its dot-com cousin, PriceGrabber.ca lists only the following categories:|
A search for "Canon Powershot" produced 27 results, with prices to compare between up to 4 different online retailers. To narrow my search, I could sort by popularity, rating or price or drill down more with additional filters a-la-Amazon:
And then view a detailed side-by-side comparison.
Unfortunately, PriceGrabber.ca is lean on user reviews compared to its US version. It would be easy enough to integrate the US reviews to the Canadian site. There are products where at the category level, PriceGrabber indicates there are reviews, like desktops, but when you view the comparison matrix, it shows no reviews, so just make sure you check for reviews at the category level if they are important to you.
Merchants can find more information about listing with PriceGrabber.ca here.
|PriceCanada and RedFlagDeals are sister sites, PriceCanada being more akin to traditional comparison shopping than online deals. PriceCanada has the following categories:|
My Powershot search delivered an impressive 86 results, but battery cases were displayed at the top, so I had to narrow my search via a dropdown menu. I could only select by megapixel number, so I chose 5. Alternatively I could have sorted the 86 results by price. You can also filter results by manufacturer, category or megapixel, select results per page to 10, 20, 50, 75 and 100.
PriceCanada's Advanced Search, though easy to overlook, feature is very useful as you can enter a parametric price search and exclude irrelevant keywords:
Other helpful features include Retailer Ratings (unfortunately there are no ratings, but it's a great list of Canadian etailers), Price Drops (lovely!) and Buyer's Guides.
Merchant information is found here.
|Shoptoit ventures beyond electronics and computers and offers a variety of products. It's got Web 2.0 design, wishlists, every possible category...I am in love with this shopping engine.My Canon Powershot search returned 203 results, and it was really easy to narrow it down to 64 "digital camera" results through a very clear and visible text link. Then I could sort by relevance, number of stores (up to 8 stores), A-Z or Z-A and price highest to lowest or lowest to highest.|
By far Shoptoit.ca has the most usable comparison tool I have ever come across. When you check off products to compare, a little "clipboard" appears, which you can edit as you go along before you navigate away from the product page, and as you scroll down the page, it follows along with you.
There's no limit to how many products you can compare at one time but results can get covered over by advertising if you choose more than 8 products.
Suggest a store or find out more about opening a merchant account.
|Like the name implies, RedFlagDeals is coupons for Canadians, offering the following categories:|
You can browse or search by keyword, and even vote on deals. A keyword search for "Canon Powershot" delivered a sweet deal -- $100 refurbished Canon PowerShot A410 3.2MP digital camera from BestBuy.
And the bottom of the left hand panel shows a handy list of Canadian free shipping offers:
If you know of a deal that they haven't listed, RedFlagDeals invites you to send it in, but finding the Contact link takes a bit of digging, it's unconventionally placed in a left hand column.
The comparison shopping section is only for Electronics, Computer and DVD.
|Shopbot's got tech, computers and electronics to compare. First I went to the keyword box for "Canon Powershot" and got a long list of results, but Shopbot doesn't tell you how many like the other engines do. And all the individual prices and shops were listed, so some identical products are listed over and over again.I found the number of results overwhelming so I decided to sort by price: lowest to highest (remember to click "Apply Filter" or nothing happens). What I got was a list of accessories which only go so far down the page and then stop. Hey, what happened to the actual cameras? There was no option at the top or bottom of results to see a next page or anything. So then I tried parametric price search and entered what I think's a reasonable range -- $100-$400. Again, depending on whether you sort low to high or high to low price, you'll get different results. And it's hard to trust that you're seeing all the available products, because the search engine will show you a fixed number of results only.|
OK, on to browse. I was able to find a digital cameras category, then narrow by brand to Canon. I found the absence of photographs disappointing, and the appearance of Adsense a bit deceiving (formatted a bit too much like the rest of the site). I'm not too savvy about model numbers, so a big list is overwhelming. Plus, you get a mix of accessories and actual digital cameras. Even just a snippet of a product description would greatly help usability. And it never hurts to list your store. You can get more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
Although Shoptoit was my favourite (note the Canadian spelling) comparison engine, I did like RedFlagDeals' search for deals by keyword. So I'm going to make good use of both. What I would like to see is more Canadian etailers getting involved in comparison shopping, and more Canadian shoppers becoming active users of these sites. There's a lot of room to grow in all areas of Canadain search marketing, and I hope that this time next year I'll have more of these sites to review.