Fexco launches online shopping portal

2 Nov 2004

Fexco Ireland, the Kerry-based financial services group, has launched an online shopping portal, which already carries thousands of products and services, from CDs and clothes to jewellery and travel.

Called edirectory, the portal competes head on with Buy4Now, the only established shopping portal in the Irish market. However, unlike Buy4Now, edirectory does not link customers to individual merchant sites. Rather, edirectory.ie shoppers may purchase from one or many suppliers using a single online shopping basket, therefore offering quicker, easier, more secure online shopping, its backers claim.

Fexco has franchised the site from edirectory.co.uk, one of the UK’s largest online shopping sites, receiving up to five million page impressions every month. Edirectory.ie is operated by Fexco-owned Gulliver Ireland, which runs GoIreland.com, the market leader in online accommodation reservations in Ireland. Gulliver is using the same multi-merchant single-basket model and proprietary technology that has been successfully developed by edirectory.co.uk.

The company was tight-lipped about how much money was being invested in the venture, or how many staff it hoped to eventually hire. Mark O’Connor, finance and operations director of Gulliver Ireland, said that a core team of five was running the site but that these were already employed within the Gulliver customer service centre which was in a quieter period after the summer holiday season. “It’s hard to predict the job numbers but as edirectory gets bigger, the number of staff will expand,” he said.

As edirectory.ie itself holds no stock and has no warehousing or fulfilment issues, Gulliver says it will be able to focus on customer service and constantly improving the quality and range of products for sale. Merchants do not even need to have an existing website. As long as they have fulfilment capabilities they can list their products on edirectory.ie and benefit from the online distribution channel, according to the company. In addition, the edirectory ‘Webshop’ technology allows merchants without current e-commerce capability to transaction-enable their own website.

Gulliver charges merchants between 5 and 20pc margin per transaction, depending on size (the larger the transaction, the smaller the commission and vice versa).

So far the products of some 30 retail partners are featured on the site, with a “couple more” partners being added daily, said O’Connor, who added that the prices were in many cases lower than in the main street.

The portal offers merchants another distribution channel and the chance to benefit from the traffic edirectory attracts from being a one-stop shopping site. The site is also optimised to generate traffic from search engines such as Google. Shoppers can choose to receive edirectory.ie ezines, which feature new products, offers and last-minute deals. A toll-free telephone number allows instant contact with edirectory.ie agents.

“The navigation system of edirectory.ie is logical, easy to use and efficient,” said O’Connor. “Our database is linked to a centralised, secure shopping basket. Edirectory handles all orders and relays it to the supplier. The supplier then handles fulfilment, and is responsible for the shipping of goods. Importantly, all transactions are secure with the usage of SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption software.”

O’Connor remarked: “The online shopping market in Ireland is still in its infancy and there is room there for a lot of players. It accounts for only one per cent of the market so we feel there is significant growth potential.

“Given that Gulliver’s concentration is online, an online shopping portal was the next logical step for us. We already have an online car rentals business (rentacar-europe.com) and a golfing website (teetimes.ie) and the timing was good given that edirectory.co.uk was looking to roll out its model outside the UK.”

By Brian Skelly