Hudson Bay Company made headlines with their recent 2.9-billion dollar purchase of U.S. luxury retailer Saks Inc. and Nordstrom’s arrival to Canada is just around the corner. J. Crew and Marshalls will head north before the end of this year and everyone is aware of the shoppers who tripped over themselves be the first ones into Target’s Canadian locations. Many were not surprised when news broke of Loblaw acquiring Shoppers Drug Mart for a cool $12.4-billion because competition continues to heat up in the Canadian retail market.  Retailers have their work cut out for them and are going to be forced to evolve if they plan to defend their share of the Canadian wallet.

Competitive pressure naturally stimulates innovation and evolution. One area of technological innovation that is creating change is in mobility. Some analysts predict that there will soon be more smartphones than people on the planet. Yet, Canadian retailers are lagging behind their U.S. counterparts in mobile solution adoption at just 14% compared to over 50% in the U.S.  Overall, Canadian retailers are two to three years behind those in the U.S. as it relates to mobile technology adoption.

Yet, according to a recent survey by IDC of 152 Canadian retailers, 52% believe mobility is critical to their business success and the need to grow customer loyalty is primarily the business initiative driving investment in mobile technology. Undoubtedly, customer loyalty and mobility are tightly connected as consumers continue to download apps that allow them to shop online, check out new arrivals from their favorite brands and collect loyalty points.

The same IDC survey found that Canadian retailers are focusing their mobile investment plans in these top 5 areas:IDC Infographic Retail Mobility.JPG

1.    1. Mobile Payments – If you’ve made a purchase at the Apple store lately, you’ll have likely had the pleasure of swiping your credit card with the Apple associate on the spot. Minutes later, you were on your way and with your receipt conveniently in your email inbox. This mobile payment saved you the aggravation of navigating your way to the till and left you no time to change your mind while waiting in line.

2.    2. In Store Check-in – Geospatial technology and mobile apps now allow shoppers to ‘check-in’ when they enter their favorite stores. Once their personal data is recognized by the retailer, they can enjoy targeted offers right to their smart phone device on their favorite items. This trend is bridging the gap between the online and in-store customer experience, while increasing sales and cross-sell opportunities for retailers.

3     3. Interactive Retailing – Bar-code price scanners, printable shopping lists, digital and interactive store maps and virtual catalogues are popping up in retail stores everywhere giving consumers a new level of self-service through mobile devices.  Some could argue that these technologies are decreasing labor costs, but more importantly, they are providing an enhanced customer experience, whereby shoppers can get the information they want, when they want it.

4.    4.Mobile Order Capture and Management – Capturing customer, transaction and inventory information is nothing new but an added benefit can be realized when store associates have this information in the palm of their hand. Need to know if other stores have the shoes you want in a size 9? How soon can they be delivered to the store of your preference? When are those shoes expected to go on promotion? Giving the store associate the ability to answer these questions on the fly brings the customer experience to a new level and keeps shoppers coming back for more.

5     5. Proximity Based Offerings – When retailers can communicate with their consumers when they’re in or near their store, it’s a win-win. Take loyalty app, ‘Merci,’ developed by Montreal-based transit provider Société de transport de Montréal (STM). This app not only tracks loyalty points for STM but also sends promotions to riders when they are near local retail shops throughout Montreal. Working with 500 retailer, STM delivered well over $1.5M offers in the first 2 months alone.

T    These are just some examples of how retailers are leveraging mobile innovations to stay ahead of the curve and survive competitive pressures. Consumers are advancing quickly in terms of their expectations for a shopping experience in their adoption of mobility. Retailers need to keep pace with these changes or will quickly become extinct in this competitive retail jungle.

      Many of the statistics stated here are from a study conducted by IDC in 2012 on Canadian retail companies. Click here to see this information captured in an infographic titled ‘American Retailers Target the Canadian Wallet.’

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  1. Colin Haig

    Carrie – great summary of issues in the Canadian retail space when it comes to the customer-facing side of the business.  I’ve worked with hundreds of retailers around the globe, many in the USA and some in Canada.  The Canadians tend to be very conservative, and are behind on technology adoption for productivity. Great to see leadership from organizations like STM, getting creative in their use of tech to connect with their customers.

    Do you think the arrival of big US retail in Canada is going to expedite the adoption of new ways of doing business by the local retailers?

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