December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Paradise found

In the dog-eat-dog world of e-retailing, Petopia.com wants to toss its customers a bonus: Nothing less than paradise for pets and the humans who shop for them.

More than a full-service pet store, Petopia.com hosts online communities of pet lovers and offers opinions on health and animal behavior from veterinarians and other experts. But Petopia knows where to stop. Matt Stamski, senior analyst at Gomez Advisors, praises the site for “delivering education without gumming up the transaction.”

Where many Web sites blur together design-wise, Petopia leaps out at you. Lots of color and cartoon-style graphics add panache to its home page. And though the
e-retailer treats hardcore pet lovers seriously, the site wants them to have fun, too. Owners can post photos of their pets, browse galleries of other pets and chat with fellow animal lovers. This interaction has a practical side as well: pet owners can compare problems-like a Labrador that eats socks-and solutions.

What really sets Petopia.com apart from the pack is its combination of products and content. Tired of Mittens tracking cat litter all over the floor? You could buy mats to place under her litter box-or you could visit the cat care section and do some fast research on less-than-fastidious felines. Harley Manning, an analyst at Forrester Research, says Petopia’s editorial material boosts credibility: “The site gives you answers and has the products right there.”

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