Canadian Shoppers Embrace Generative AI for Shopping Suggestions: Report

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A new report by Salesforce, a global leader in CRM (Customer Relationship Management), says 33 per cent of Canadian shoppers say they’re interested in using generative AI for outfit/wardrobe inspiration and 45 per cent say the same for researching appliances and electronics.

The report said generative AI’s impact on retail is coming into focus with seven per cent of shoppers in Canada saying they’ve already used generative AI for shopping inspiration.

It said 92 per cent of Canadian retailers say they’re investing more than ever in AI.

Rob Garf

“Consumers are traversing a number of physical and digital touchpoints throughout the shopping journey – from browsing in stores to buying on social,” said Rob Garf, VP and General Manager, Salesforce Retail.

“Our research shows that generative AI is a game changer for retailers to increase personalization and decrease friction – ultimately driving loyalty and increasing share of wallet.” 

Image: Salesforce

The fifth edition of Salesforce’s Connected Shoppers Report showcases the mandate for retailers to increase loyalty and share of wallet. Notably, the research shows how retailers and shoppers are adapting to a post-pandemic retail landscape, the impact of generative AI, and a new paradigm in customer loyalty programs.

Other key findings from the report:

  • Social media’s influence ramps up. 48 per cent of Canadian shoppers report having made a purchase on social media — up from seven per cent in 2021. This is part of the shift to digital shopping channels: An estimated 42 per cent of transactions will take place over digital channels in 2023, a figure expected to rise to 46 per cent in 2025;
  • Stores increasingly blur the digital/physical divide. Stores increasingly function as ecommerce fulfillment centres, with many Canadian retailers offering services like buy-online-pickup-in-store (61 per cent) and ship-from-store (68 per cent). 27 per cent of store associates in Canada use mobile devices to complete tasks away from the register; and
  • Loyalty programs get a revamp. Canadian shoppers belong to an average of 3.69 loyalty programs — down from 4.07 in 2021. 87 per cent of Canadian retailers offer such programs, but relatively few have expanded beyond tried-and-true points-based schemes, leaving ample opportunity to expand into newer models such as tiered or coalition programs. 

Michelle Grant, Senior Manager, Strategy and Insights, Retail and Consumer Goods at Salesforce, said the growth in e-commerce is expected to continue after a rebound in the store shopping experience this year.

Michelle Grant

“That long-term trend of buying more online is going to continue and with that is the need to have an omnichannel experience . . . The whole notion of the need to be omnichannel is a key message from the report,” she said.

“But it’s very difficult to do still. We see that store associates still in Canada don’t have a single view of that customer. When you walk in it’s hard to identify them, understand their full purchase history, what sort of value they are to the retailer and service them appropriately because you don’t have all that information.

“We often see that on a company level there aren’t too many retailers that have a unified engagement platform where they’ve broken down the silos between marketing, commerce and service, have access to all the data that’s being generated through all the different touch points in order to deliver that omnichannel experience.”

Grant said AI has been around for awhile and has become standard in retail whether it’s product recommendations or other types of personalization.

“Everyone has been working towards that. But what we have now is the new format of AI which is generative. We’re able to take different aspects, different prompts, and generate whether that’s a text or images or videos or sound, new experiences due to that generative AI and that hasn’t really infiltrated the retail industry quite yet,” she said.

“I think what was fascinating about the Canadian market in particular is that the consumer adoption of generative AI was much lower as far as product inspiration. Only seven per cent of Canadians ever used it compared to 17 per cent (globally). However, the retailers identify it as a top opportunity. 21 per cent of Canadian retailers said that leveraging Gen AI is a top opportunity for the industry, making it into the top five most popular responses which didn’t make it in the global view of what the top opportunities were. 

“So you have this kind of disconnect where consumers a little bit may not be aware of it, not aware of it in a sense of a retail experience, but the retail industry itself is really excited about it which makes me think that going forward we’ll see a lot more experimentation by retailers in generative AI on a kind of a fast end of things and not necessarily some of the customer facing experiences that you can create using generative AI.”

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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