Retailers in Canada Adopting Digital Technologies Amid Rise of Social Media Commerce

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Retail in Canada is shifting quickly as e-commerce and digital spending accelerated during the pandemic. Even though consumers started shopping in physical stores following lockdowns, digital habits for many will remain permanent as consumers adapt to a new hybrid retail reality. Even social media channels are now becoming avenues for retailers to sell, with retailers needing to keep up with how consumers are ultimately consuming. 

This is leading to a situation where retailers are looking to meet customers where they are online, including Instagram, TikTok and other social media channels and platforms that have the attention of current and potential new shoppers. Retailers not addressing the changing consumer face an uphill battle and possible irrelevancy as competitors fight for market share. 

Live shopping via social media and online is also picking up speed in Canada. Showcase, the ‘Home of the Hottest Trends’ retailer based in Toronto, launched live shopping last year and is now broadcasting its items on its website as well as its social media channels. The retailer does so every 48 hours and says that it’s seeing tremendous success with its digital channels also driving consumers to its stores. Independents such as womenswear retailer Freeda’s have also embraced the trend, launching Instagram Live shopping at 5pm three days a week. 

Kelly Haut Thacker

The trend is expected to continue and grow as consumers find new avenues to learn about products and shop. Kelly Thacker, SVP of product marketing at Salesforce, said in a recent sit-down interview at Dreamforce Conference in San Francisco that the past two plus years have been pivotal for retail, with e-commerce exploding with a momentum expected to continue. She said that top retailers are investing heavily in digital channels, including various new initiatives to personalize the online experience while also building loyalty and personalization. 

Getting digital right is key at a time when consumers are looking to buy how they want and when they want — be it online or in-store. Thacker explained that retailers need to upgrade operations while embracing digital commerce experiences, including innovative strategies and solutions that help deliver efficiency, customer success and ultimately return on investment from these activities. 

She said that the key to operational excellence is for retailers to collect the right ecommerce data “at the right time” to gather insights to create more efficient, personalized shopping experiences. This data can help optimize every step of the consumer journey, from searching within the store to checkout to order management. This is because data powers relevant product recommendations with personalization, leading to customer loyalty if everything works as planned. 

Data also powers such experiences as one-click checkouts — the ease of checkout online is another important factor according to Thacker. Consumers may abandon baskets if the process isn’t seamless, particularly when compared to a competitor such as Amazon. 

Photo: TikTok

Getting to know the consumer is paramount she said, and data gathered can be utilized to build customer profiles that will lead to customization which in turn lends itself to loyalty. Salesforce has launched numerous initiatives in partnership with players also stepping into the e-commerce space. 

That includes TikTok — earlier this year Salesforce added the option for retailers to create a TikTok channel within their ecommerce platforms to facilitate social shopping experiences for advertisers. The TikTok platform is massive with about a billion users globally. 

Advertisers, utilizing the Salesforce Commerce Cloud ecommerce CRM platform, are able to get smart feeds where products can be showcased, be it advertising or dynamic video. Shoppable and trackable ads are made possible by automatically syncing to product catalogs already stored within Commerce Cloud. 

Thaker noted that retailers selling online and through platforms such as TikTok must be where customers are, be it whichever channel the consumer prefers. At the back-end for retailers, data must flow across the channels so that retailers can deliver connected experiences in the most efficient way, she said. 

One trend she noted is that the majority of customers now look to digital channels when planning and making purchases, with younger consumers doing so on even a greater scale. Social media will continue to be prominent with platforms such as TikTok seeing usage rates far higher than Instagram and Facebook globally, combined. 

Photo: VOI

Getting it right will be critical for retailers in Canada this upcoming Holiday Season. Already, some groups such as Retail Council of Canada are predicting lower retail sales in Canada this year leading up to December, which means competition will be fierce as retailers attempt to reach consumers when spending will be high — the shopping period leading up to the December holidays is paramount to most retailers, representing the highest sales period of the year. 

With the holidays approaching, Showcase and other retailers will continue to stream what’s available in-store online where numbers its are growing — Showcase said in an interview earlier this year that it is seeing rapid growth in viewer numbers for its digital shopping channels. Other retailers are taking note and jumping on the bandwagon, while those not doing so risk losing market share and being left behind. We’ll follow up on this story as retail continues to shift further into digital channels into 2023. 

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Publisher & CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Advisor at the University of Alberta School Centre for Cities and Communities in Edmonton, former lawyer and a public speaker. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for over 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees.

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