Retail has Changed Forever in Canada as Consumers Shift Online Following Pandemic [Google Report]

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New research from Google Canada indicates digital is here to stay and is now the gateway to all commerce.

“As a result of the pandemic, Canadian retail has changed forever, but the rise in ecommerce has been durable and permanent. While we expect to see a return to in-store shopping this holiday season, shoppers will use digital to inform, inspire and enable their purchases. 86 per cent of shoppers discover brands/products while browsing online and  89 per cent of holiday shoppers searched online first before a store visit,” said Google Canada.

Swathi Sadagopan

Swathi Sadagopan, Strategic Insights Lead, for Google Canada Retail, said Canadians are increasingly using digital in their shopping experience not only for buying items but also for researching items prior to visiting stores. 

“With so much having changed over the past few years, we’re seeing a few key trends take shape this holiday season. For one, given the current state of the economy, many holiday shoppers are concerned about the rising cost of items they need or want to buy. This holiday season we will see more price conscious consumers looking for two key value indicators: cost and convenience. So, don’t presume pessimism. Instead, work on positioning your value clearly to Canadians,” said Sadagopan.

“Unsurprisingly, digital is driving the shopping experience both online and in-store and is now the gateway to all commerce, with shoppers going online to inform, inspire and enable their purchases. We will also see a return to in-store holiday shopping, but that shoppers will want those visits to be purposeful and efficient – combining this with a more omnichannel experience. 

As a result of the pandemic, Canadian retail has changed forever and the rise in ecommerce has been durable and permanent and its momentum has continued, she said.

 “There’s no doubt that Canadian holiday shoppers are looking forward to a ‘normal’ holiday season, but economic uncertainty has given rise to a more price conscious consumer. Canadian holiday shoppers will be more conscious about their spending this season,” said Sadagopan. “In fact, 72 per cent of Canadian holiday shoppers say they are concerned about the rising cost of items they need or want to buy and 60 per cent of holiday shoppers say they plan to buy less because of the impact of inflation on their finances. This holiday season we will see more price conscious consumers with more shoppers deal seeking, brand switching and researching before they buy.

“With digital here to stay, retailers should keep the customer experience top of mind to win the holidays. With shoppers researching online for both store availability and price before making a purchase, the importance of retailers maintaining a strong digital presence will be integral to meeting demands of shoppers.”  

Rexall.ca (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

The research also found:

  • Holiday shoppers are being strategic, making fewer impulsive purchases: One in four holiday shoppers say they are shopping for things now that they don’t need until later because they’re worried items will go out of stock while nearly half of Canadian holiday shoppers say they’re taking inventory of what they have to determine what they need;
  • Convenience is key to winning over holiday shoppers: While we anticipate a return to in-store shopping, shoppers will use digital to make those trips purposeful and efficient. Shoppers will research online for both store availability and price before making a purchase. More than half (54 per cent) of holiday shoppers said they will confirm an item is in stock before going to buy it. Searches for curbside pickup aren’t slowing down either, with search interest for  ‘curbside pickup near me’ increasing 250 per cent year-over-year; and
  • Online video plays an increasingly important role in the shopping journey: 70 per cent of consumers say they bought a brand because they saw it on YouTube with over two in three (67 per cent) holiday shoppers having watched a video on YouTube before a store visit;
  • 60 per cent of holiday shoppers say they plan to buy less because of the impact of inflation on their finances;
  • Search interest for price sensitive terms have increased this year, with ‘discount code’ increasing 2x and ‘price match’ up 7x;
  • The top behaviours holiday shoppers say they’ll do more this season includes deal seeking and researching;
  • 85 per cent of Canadian holiday shoppers say they will shop at stores with discounts;
  • 73 per cent said they will shop with stores that offer free shipping;
  • 41 per cent of holiday shoppers said they are comparing prices and price matching;
  • One in four holiday shoppers say they are shopping for things now that they don’t need until later because they’re worried items will go out of stock;
  • Nearly half of Canadian holiday shoppers say they’re taking inventory of what they have to determine what they need;
  • 32 per cent say they keep an eye out for new brands even if they’re not planning to buy right then;
  • Nearly one in four surveyed Canadian holiday shoppers had said they had already begun their holiday shopping by mid-September.

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.

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