Explosion in Canadian Retailers Integrating Digital Strategies into Core Businesses: Study

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The number of Canadian businesses that have fully integrated digital strategies into their core business has risen dramatically with almost three times more businesses following that path in 2020.

A new survey released by SAP Canada, in partnership with IDC Canada, said Canadian enterprises understand that digital transformation is both necessary and valuable for improved customer experience, employee productivity and the bottom line.  

The 2021 SAP-IDC Innovation Readiness (IR) Study found that nearly 40 per cent of Canadian enterprises surveyed indicated having a digital strategy that is fully integrated to their core business.

 ”The COVID-19 pandemic has been instrumental in driving major changes across Canadian enterprises, from the way they operate to the way they engage with customers, partners, and employees,” said the report. “Overnight, COVID-19 made organizations take direct action to put in place processes and solutions that would enable them to engage with employees and customers remotely, such as telehealth in the healthcare sector, e-commerce in retail, and cloud-based solutions to execute on business processes. 

“Many organizations experienced disruptions in their supply chains and had to source new suppliers and build resiliency into their supply chains. The pandemic pushed organizations to reconsider their digital transformation (DX) strategy road maps, and for many it provided the impetus to put a DX strategy in place. Often organizations had to undergo several years’ worth of transformation in a matter of months, accelerating their journey to becoming an ‘intelligent enterprise’.”

SAP is a market leader in enterprise application software.

Marcelo Souhami
Marcelo Souhami

Marcelo Souhami, VP of Sales for Customer Experience at SAP Canada, said when the pandemic hit, and shut down stores, retailers realized they had to accelerate their online business.

“Some of them were ready and they just had to make sure they had supply and some of them were playing catchup where they had to accelerate their transformation and everyone has a different maturity curve and its level of advancement,” he said. “That was something everyone responded to. 

“Fast forward about a year into the pandemic, it was all about okay what’s the new normal. Now we have vaccination action going on. Stores are reopening and there was this whole re-shift in how do people interact with retailers.

“The transformation for them isn’t about being better online or being better at connecting the front office to the back office. It’s about being able to pivot to whatever we’re going to get next because every three months something else is different.”

Online shopping

Souhami said businesses who are not in the digital space are being left behind and a key is to remain relevant in the marketplace.

“The buzz word is personalization in the industry. So personalization is out there. Everyone is saying that they’re doing it. How well they’re doing and how data driven it is versus what marketing wants it to be is also something that not everyone’s at the same level,” he said. 

“I think there will be a change on how fast retailers need to really step up their game to stay relevant in that regard. Just having a good website that converts well, it’s kind of like table stakes now.” 

Souhami said the trend towards digitization will continue to grow.

The survey also found:

  • 54 per cent of Canadian organizations implemented new digital and line-of-business initiatives to navigate pandemic-based challenges such as remote work, customer engagement and employee accessibility; 
  • 84 per cent of respondents  highlighted that investment into digital technologies either met or exceeded their expectations this year; 
  •  81 per cent of the Canadian organizations surveyed reported that CX had a positive impact on their financial performance — an increase of nearly 20 per cent over 2020;
  • 75 per cent of Canadian enterprises planned on migrating all or some of their applications and data to the cloud in 2021;
  • 84 per cent of leaders in the digital transformation space are using technologies to make incremental and continuous improvements to their core business; and
  • Customer experience was also at the heart of the survey with most organizations surveyed (81 per cent) indicating a positive impact on financial performance because of strong client experience. This is an increase of 20 per cent over last year’s survey.
Brian Moore

“Digital transformation has been on the radar of Canadian businesses for years, but the last year has shown us that interest and value for it has soared,” said Brian Moore, Chief Operating Officer, SAP Canada. “We are seeing that organizations will need to continue to fully integrate their operations in the coming year to remain competitive. 

“Simply put, a digital transformation strategy is no longer a ‘nice to have’ – it’s a necessity for organizations to thrive. In 2022, we will see Canadian businesses step away from tactical, reactive enhancements in exchange for developing digital transformation strategies that will enable them to achieve new levels of success.”

Read the full report here.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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