The Retail Conference of Canada's Store 2012 conference this year focused on the power of engagement; and when it comes to e-commerce, the channel everyone is focusing on over the next three to five years will be centred around smartphones.
John Gerzema, global chief insights officer at Young & Rubicam Companies kicked off the two-day conference held at the Toronto Congress Centre. He spoke about the "Brave New World" for retailers and brand marketers. "Technology has become part of our culture," he said, pointing to the 98,000 tweets that happen per second; 700,000 search on Google per second. "Mobile web economy will double by 2016."
He pointed to the fact that 28 per cent of smartphone owners use it as their primary Internet connection, and the population is young. "By 2020, 31 per cen to f the world's pouplation is under the age of 35 (40 per cent in Canada)," said Gerzema. This only lends to the mobile-driven population.
So with 45 per cent of adults owning smartphones, it's no wonder that the way we buy and share is being changed.
Gerzema said there are five trends driving the current landscape:
1) Currency is getting current, with trust become currency through sites like Friendsurance where friends and family buy group insurance.
2) Cinderellanomics: want less, rent more. There are sites for example, that allow you to rent out your driveway, or rent art instead of having to buy it.
3) Reputation me: reputation and trust is increasingly important to people. Social intelligence company will get all a perspective employee's activities on social media to an recruiter for $300; or Copious, an eBay for people who all know each other.
4) Gaming your life: want rewards at retail. Panera, a pay-as-you-go cafe based on the honour system.
5) Thinking outside the big box: there are huge opportunities for brands people trust that have integrity. "What you say and do is the same thing; we're moving past value and price," said Gerzema.
Next, there was a panel discussion on "The E-Commerce Tipping Point" led by Mitch Joel, of Twist Image.
The panelists included: Christina Callas of Hudson's Bay; Simon Rodrigue of Walmart.ca; Yonga Shtern of Beyond the Rack; Ted Starkman of The Shopping Channel; and Joanne Track of eLuxe.ca.
The Bay's Callas said that e-commerce in Canada is a supply side problem (in meeting the e-commerce need in Canada). "Canadian consumers are digitally savvy; online retailing is retailing, it's just reinventing how we interact with consumers."
Rodrigue of Walmart.ca agreed, saying one challenge Canadian online retailers face is shipping product across the country.
The panelists all agreed with Joel's view that bricks and mortar stores are "show rooming"–just a place for consumers to see product before they buy it (online) now.
Track said it's a multichannel world however, and bricks and mortar aren't dead.
All said that mobile commerce is where the future of retail is headed; Joel pointed out that there has been 75 per cent growth year on year using mobile to make purchases.
Starkman said that retailers need to build e-commerce platforms that will support mobile in the coming years, so "wherever consumer goes, we can go. We must build the infrastructure to adapt."
Shtern added that e-commerce has to be integral to customer experience, "if e-commerce remains a channel, it's destined to fail."
In a concurrent session, getting e-commerce right was the topic of discussion with panelists James Connell, of Roots Canada; Tanbir Grover of Hudson's Bay; and Paige Malling of Well.ca.
All agreed that the simplest way into e-commerce is putting your products online, ideally all the products available in store should be available online and if not, consumers should be informed before checkout in which channel that product can be found.
Malling of Well.ca (which recently created a pop up store at Toronto's Union station) said soon the store will come to you in other ways.
Grover of The Bay said that it's integral to see the online channel as an extension of the store.
The iPad is making a huge impact on online retailing; Connell of Roots said that 15 per cent of its sales are coming from the iPad.
All reiterated that mobile technology is the next big thing.
Malling provided these tips to create a quality e-commerce experience:
1) Pick the right products at the right price.
2) Offer easy search and navigation–findability
3) Focus on the last mile; make sure product is shipped in nice packaging, include handwritten notes, etc.
Jeffrey Rayport of Castanea Partners spoke about driving customer engagement in a networked world.
In the 50s and 60s, demand was infinite; today however, there are too many brands in too many sectors (supply is greater than demand).
And in a networked world, there are new principles for customer engagement, said Rayport:
1)Target the core customers with content, services, apps
2)Socialize the brand by ensuring membership has its rewards
3)Work the web by adopting open-source thinking as an aggregator
4)Design for occasion; use tablet and smartphones to enable shopping on the go
5)Integrate the experience using multichannel media
Rayport said that social, local, mobile demand has created radical new ways to organize around customers.
In a session focused on social media site LinkedIn, Jeff Ray of LinkedIn Canada spoke about how the site is a powerful tool in the recruiter's arsenal.
LinkedIn is considered a professional networking site, while Facebook is a personal social utility.
Currently, Roy said there are more than five million Canadian members.
The main difference between LinkedIn and other job searching sites is that it gives organizations the opportunity to get infront of both passive and active job seekers. "Jobs will pop up in a the profile for passive candidates," says Roy.
Golf Town's executive vp of HR Joanne Taylor said that when the company opened its seven Boston stores recently, all of its management was hired via LinkedIn. LinkedIn provided more targeted applicants for jobs and lined up candidates for when vacancies do occur, she said.
The conference continues tomorrow, and will conclude with the Excellence in Retailing Awards gala.
Sobeys' retiring CEO Bill McEwan will be honoured with the lifetime achievement award. In the latest issue (May) of Canadian Grocer, there's an exit interview with the outgoing CEO.