Combating the Amazon effect

At the Payments Canada Summit in Toronto, Jeff Guthrie of Moneris explained how small retailers can thrive in the face of Amazon

Small retailers don’t have to be afraid of “death by Amazon,” according to Jeff Guthrie, chief sales and marketing officer at Canadian payment solutions company Moneris.

Speaking at the Payments Canada Summit in Toronto in May, Guthrie told the audience that although Amazon has undeniably become a major force in the Canadian marketplace, those who think it’s going to kill all the small brick-and-mortar stores simply aren’t correct.

Guthrie admitted that today’s small retailers can’t really expect to compete when it comes to certain straightforward commodities, such as a bulk delivery of toilet paper or diapers from Amazon, for instance. “But they can compete on providing a curated experience that draws people back in,” he said. And the fact that Canada’s population is aging is actually good news in this regard. “Typically as you age, you have more cash and you’re willing to pay for that experience and that more customized feel; and your kids are grown, so you have more time. The idea of having something rushed to your door by a driver is not as enticing as being able to go out, have a casual coffee and do some shopping,” he said.

Aside from providing a top-notch “experience,” Guthrie said small retailers need to do a number of other things in order to stay competitive in the face of Amazon—and one of the biggest “musts” is to keep up to date with technology. Moneris did some research in 2016, and found that less than 1% of small business owners answered “yes” when asked if they were investing in the latest tech. At a minimum, a small retailer needs to a have a good web presence or nobody will be able to find them on Google, which is where people typically discover new stores to visit.

He suggested that small retailers need to use data to their advantage as well. Leveraging data doesn’t have to be complicated, either. “An example could be taking simple information, like when is the last time that person came in to buy something?” he explained. “There are many tools available where you can look for simple patterns, and then leverage those patterns to drive sales.”

He also noted that Canadian businesses large and small are increasingly going to have to become “payment-ready,” meaning keeping up with the all the latest payment methods. “We believe the whole market’s going to shift eventually over from a terminal only, to a tablet, to an app and the way we think about it is that it’s not one or the other. What we’re seeing is consumers want to pay when they want to pay, where they want to pay and how they want to pay,” said Guthrie. And if your business isn’t prepared to accept the type of payment the customer wants to use, he said, research shows they’ll simply go to another store. “They’ll move on because it’s just less friction to buy it somewhere else.”

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