How Canadian Retailers Can Start Preparing for 2030

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By Vala Afshar, Chief Digital Evangelist at Salesforce

There was a lot that didn’t exist 10 years ago — things we never would have foreseen. This includes the iPad, which wasn’t formally introduced until April of 2010, or Instagram, which launched in October of the same year.

Ten years ago also marked a unique moment in Canadian history, when Vancouver hosted the Olympic Games with a rousing and confident motto of “Own The Podium.”

Now that we’ve finished looking back at the 2010s, it’s time to look forward, and while forecasting is never easy, I’d suggest Canadian businesses be as well-prepared and as ambitious as its Olympians in harnessing the changes in technology to better serve their customers.

The inevitable trajectory of e-commerce

Even if they’re not thinking that far ahead, many companies are already laying the groundwork for a very different world in 2030. This includes retail stores, where a recent analysis showed the use of AI, mobile and social led to growth of 15 per cent in 2019 over 2018.

While a lot of activity still happens in physical stores, eMarketer is projecting e-commerce to make up 16.1 percent of retail sales this year. By 2030, Canadian retailers should expect more than 50 per cent of their sales transactions to come through digital challenges. If you aren’t focusing on e-commerce, now is the time to start.

More mobile than ever before

E-commerce is on the rise in part because it’s easier than ever for Canadian consumers to shop from wherever they are. Apple’s App Store is now 12 years old, and there are others, such as Google Play, which offer an incredible plethora of products and services via smartphone. By 2030, worldwide sales transactions from smartphone applications will drive 99 per cent of all digital traffic and 95 percent of all orders. If that sounds high, consider recent data which found mobile devices globally drove 73 per cent of all digital traffic and 55 per cent of all orders across Cyber Week 2019.

“Mobile” isn’t restricted to the smartphone, of course, or even the use of our fingers to make purchases. According to Statista, the rate of user penetration for wearables in Canada is already 8.3 percent and will continue to climb. Last year, the CBC noted the growing acceptance of smart speakers and other devices that use voice recognition and artificial intelligence (AI) to handle things like sales orders and transactions, further changing the nature of interfaces.

A decade that will be defined by AI

AI, of course, has been the subject of headlines across Canada and beyond — not all of it positive. Last year, however, Salesforce published a report called “Future Ready: Advancing Canadian Business in the Digital Economy”, which showed that while only 15 percent of businesses here use AI today, they expected a growth rate in AI adoption of 202 percent within the next three years.

By 2030, all businesses will use AI. What seems disruptive now will be more like electricity in business today. If you don’t have electricity, you’re left in the dark. When you use it to its potential, however, it allows you to do far more than keep the lights on.

Ten years from now, for example, we’ll look at many of the tools we describe as powered by AI as fairly simplistic, handling routine tasks and answering basic questions. Market research firm Gartner, on the other hand, suggests AI will soon be used to influence more than half of advertising and sales by being able to identify emotional reactions and strengthen loyalty. This prediction is backed up by recent Cyber Week data showing that 9 percent of digital orders during the 2019 holiday period were driven by AI applications.

The 10-year journey toward higher customer expectations begins

If you’re worried that technological automation will dehumanize the way we live and work, don’t be. While not every trend shows a “hockey stick” growth curve, the importance of the experience a company offers its customers is only increasing in time.

Last year, for example, research showed that 84 per cent of customers valued experience as equally important as the product; in 2018 it was 80 per cent. By 2030 that number will be 100 percent — not just because customers demand it, but because the technology is already here to support such experiences.

Speed, personalization at scale, and intelligent, proactive engagements are all made possible through AI, the Internet of Things and other innovations. Much like autonomous vehicles are transforming the relationships between a driver and a car, these tools are allowing employees to move from repetitive, manual and error-prone assignments to higher-value activities that anticipate the needs of customers and exceed their expectations.

Canada, and the entire world, will obviously look a lot different by 2030. All businesses have an equal opportunity to win, however — where we share the podium based on the way we make use of the technologies available to us.

Vala Afshar is an award-winning inventor and sought after expert in digital business transformation, digital marketing and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and virtual reality. In his current role, Valacollaborates with C-suite executives, industry analysts and thought leaders from around the world on opportunities for digital change. His role combines a business perspective with the technologies for gathering, analyzing, and sharing data, and he has been named as the top influencer to CMOs on Twitter by Fortune Magazine. For more from Vala you can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ValaAfshar

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