More E-Communities Popping Up for Shopping

Do online shoppers browse the Internet by product category or by the product’s place of origin? Another new company planning to establish a handful of online shopping sites is betting a significant number want goods and services from specific online “communities.”

Planet411.com plans to launch three online communities this summer based on Canada’s three largest cities: Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. The project is similar to one launched two weeks ago by Research Engineers Inc. to give Asians living abroad access to Asian communities. But unlike Research Engineers’ sites, which stand alone with their own separate Internet addresses, Planet411.com will aggregate all of its cities at www.planet411.com, with that site eventually acting as a portal to cities all over the world.

Internet Mirrors Reality?

The company’s ultimate goal is to create Internet sites where anything that can be done in a real city can also be done in its virtual counterpart. By taking advantage of the fast transactions the Internet offers, vendors with shops in the virtual cities will in many cases be able to conduct transactions faster than they would in person, Planet411.com says.

For starters, Planet411.com will focus on commerce. The company selected Open Market, Inc., of Burlington, Massachusetts, to provide its Transact Internet commerce software and its ShopSite online store-building software for the new “virtual cities” Planet411.com will host. Retailers and other businesses in the three Canadian cities can establish online presences at the site, with Planet411.com providing the software, shipping, customer service, and Web hosting service and server capacity.

City-specific news, weather and sports services are also slated to be featured on the site, so people looking for the latest sports scores in Vancouver can go the Planet411.com and click on that city to find them. The sites will also offer information such as entertainment attractions and business directories in those cities. In addition, Planet411.com hopes to get local residents of those communities involved by allowing them to put content on the sites and participate in online conferences, chat groups and other events.

Expansion Plans

The company plans to expand the service later this year to include three more Canadian cities — Edmonton, Ottawa, and Quebec — as well as another 14 international cities: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Auckland, Sydney, Johannesburg, London, Rome, Paris, Moscow and Berlin. All cities other than the initial three launch cities are available for “franchising.” In other words, Planet411.com will sell the rights to operate those sites. “Planet411.com is leveraging the physical world to develop an online community that replicates the world’s most popular brick and mortar cities,” Planet411.com founder Stephane Chouinard said.

About Planet411.com pPlanet411.com (OTC: PFOO) launched in February with a $500,000 (US$) private placement offering that closed in early March. The company is based in Montreal.

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