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Stalking does pay, when it comes to online shopping

Date

Megan Doherty City Reporter

Stalkthis.com founders left to right: David Heacock, Alexi Dascarolis, Michael Dascarolis, Frederica Heacock, all of Canberra.

Stalkthis.com founders left to right: David Heacock, Alexi Dascarolis, Michael Dascarolis, Frederica Heacock, all of Canberra. Photo: Martin Ollman

A joke over dinner between two Canberra couples has developed into the upstart start-up Stalkthis.com, which is set to change online shopping in Australia.

Local business people David and Frederica Heacock and Alexi and Michael Dascarolis have created a site where shoppers can find products they want to buy online and get alerts via email or text message when the items go on sale.

The concept was born over dinner one night as the friends were joking about their own obsession of ''stalking'' items online - keeping an eye on them until the price went down and they were ready to pounce.

The "inspiration page'' for Stalkthis.com showing retailers where products can be stalked.

The "inspiration page'' for Stalkthis.com showing retailers where products can be stalked. Photo: Supplied

Shoppers install the ''Stalkthis'' button in their browser to save items into their personalised shopping lists on the site, effectively doing away with the need to keep bookmarks and wish-lists for multiple websites. Stalkthis.com keeps an eye on any price changes and helps shoppers purchase what they want, at the price they want to pay.

The group is also planning an innovation for bricks-and-mortar shopping. A mobile app will be launched this year so people can use a phone to scan the barcode of the product in-store. Stalkthis.com will alert them when the item is on sale.

The free service is the first of its kind in Australia and the brainchild of the Heacocks, who owned the M@D digital communications agency (later sold to Zoo); Mrs Dascarolis, a former national sales manager with L'Oreal Luxury Products who was also the business development manager at M@D and Mr Dascarolis, who has a background in project management in high-profile construction.

Stalkthis.com's focus is on fashion to date, but the site also stalks the prices of everything from camping equipment to real estate. It doesn't price compare but keeps track of the designated item.

The site went live last September after 18 months developing and refining the technology.

Competitors have started to emerge in the US in the meantime but use manual labour to check the prices rather than technology.

''We've built the technology, so we're ahead of the pack in that respect,'' Ms Heacock said.

Stalkthis.com currently reviews prices for more than 500 sites. If people want a product stalked on a new site, the group applies its technology or ''rules'' to the site. Some sites may take a few minutes to be stalk-ready; others can take a few days, depending on their complexity.

The company makes money through taking a percentage of sales referred to or promoted on the site.

The group is speaking to 20 high-profile Australian retailers to be part of Stalkthis.com. Smaller retailers are also interested because they want to expand their brand exposure by piggybacking off the group's marketing strategies and social media communities.

The group is also looking to establish market share in Asia, a region largely ignored by their American counterparts.

While young women stalking shoes are big on the site, men and women were equally likely to use Stalkthis. ''I was stalking a car and the first time I got an alert, it was like winning on a horse. It was an amazing feeling,'' Mr Heacock said.

The group received a grant from the ACT government's InnovationConnect (ICon) initiative which they used to fund research and further development. Their research found 78 per cent of respondents saw the need for the service.

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