Lessons learned at Retail Tech conference

Insights on e-commerce, mobile marketing and personalized loyalty programs

At Tuesday’s Canadian Grocer and Marketing Retail Tech conference, we heard from Google, SapientNitro, Aimia and a whack of hot Canadian startups like Checkout51, AisleLabs and Shopify. Together they offered the latest and greatest insights on e-commerce, in-store mobile marketing and personalized loyalty programs. Here’s what we learned:

1. Big retail is lagging, and smaller stores are stepping into the gap

The future is here, but unevenly distributed — and it’s the small, nimble retailers that are seeing it first. Canadian marketers are used to hearing that retail is lagging behind consumers e-commerce expectations, but the retail innovators panel clarified that really only applies to big, institutionalized retailers. New entrants like ShoeMe.ca and Indochino are doing all the things that more advanced U.K. and U.S. retailers are doing — like mobile payments, beacon messaging and behavioural targeting — and if big box chains don’t start playing catch-up, they might be overtaken. “The barrier to entry to selling stuff is getting lower and lower, thanks in part to companies like Shopify, Lightspeed, Square. These guys are enabling basically anyone to sell online or in the physical world,” said Antoine Azar, co-founder of Thirdshelf. “The competition is really increasing.”

2. Mobile search is a huge untapped opportunity

Even though 70% of online search activity in Canada comes from mobile devices, retailers have yet to take advantage of search advertising on mobile devices. Google Canada’s retail lead, Chris Hodgson, said while Canadian auto retailers are paying on average 9% more for mobile search clicks than desktop search clicks, retailers are paying 46% less than they are on desktop and 35% of retailers aren’t bidding on any search ads at all. Hodgson told retailers to “stop making excuses” for not investing in mobile. “The people who are leading in mobile are going to steal share from competitors in today’s world.”

3. Data can give you access to key loyalty moments

Personalization is all the rage in shopper messaging, but it all depends on data: how much of it you have, how trustworthy it is, and what you can do with it. In the past decade loyalty firm Aimia has become a data monster, and VP of analytics Duncan Stewart explained what his company can do with it. One of the example strategies they shared was messaging consumers during key life events when their brand loyalty is most unstable — either because they’re most likely to jump from your competitor, or because they’re most likely to bail on you. Take pregnancy — new mothers are a lot more strapped for time and cash, and all of a sudden your high-end grocery store might seem a lot less appealing. Using data, you can tell when those moments are happening for customers, and make sure to engage them with loyalty rewards and personalized promotions to keep them coming back.

4. Lots of consumers prefer take-out to delivery

The U.K. is far ahead of anyone else when it comes to retail innovation. During his presentation, IGD’s Stewart Samuel focused on “Click and collect” – a type of online portal where shoppers can order groceries for in-store pickup. Except the pick-up doesn’t have to be in-store; U.K. retailers have set up pickup lockers at metro stops, gas stations, universities or anywhere there’s a lot of community traffic where consumers might be. In the last year, the total number of click and collect locations have more than doubled throughout the U.K. Samuel dropped a big hint: “A big focus area for us is, what’s Loblaw going to do in upgrading their Shoppers Drug Mart stores that have no food element in them?”

5. Successful mobile offers don't have to mean dollars off the sticker price

At the in-store marketing tech panel, Tony Chapman put three mobile marketing execs on the spot about how consumers are really benefiting from the their tech innovations. Kristie Painting stood up for mobile promotions app Checkout51, pointing to a campaign that scanned users’ recent purchases and suggested recipes using those products, plus a certain brand of mayonnaise. The mayo company’s recipe campaign got shoppers to buy the product without knocking even a cent off its price. Mark Mandato at Rogers said proximity mobile messaging services, like Rogers Alerts, aren’t about offering coupons to consumers, so much as they are about informing consumers of deals that are already on in store. In that sense, it’s more like a flyer than a coupon.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds