Technology to Fuel Retailer Growth in Canada in 2024 [Video Interview]

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Canadian businesses are shifting from survival to growth mode in 2024 and technology such as Artificial Intelligence and automation is increasingly becoming more important in their operations – from restaurants to retailers to the beauty industry, according to Square’s fourth annual Future of Commerce report.

“Automation and AI are going to be key growth levers for restaurants in the coming year, though not in the way you may think,” said Ming-Tai Huh, General Manager of Square for Restaurants. “The vast majority of restaurants will be integrating AI into their operations in small, iterative ways – not through flashy robots but through automation in marketing or kitchen workflows – and these minor changes will add up to saved time and more profit.”

“For businesses, the future is looking cautiously optimistic, and business owners say they’re looking to grow despite diverging consumer economic sentiment,” said Matthew O’Connor, Head of Verticals and Platform at Square. 

The Future of Commerce Report: 2024 Edition

Some key findings from the report that looked at trends across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia include:

  • 100 per cent of surveyed Canadian restaurateurs say they plan to expand their businesses in the next 12 months through offering new products or opening additional locations, and 80 per cent report feeling more optimistic about the future of their restaurants;
  • Three in four Canadian consumers say they expect to pull back on restaurant spending in 2024;
  • 89 per cent of restaurant owners say they’ll experiment in the coming year with non-core offerings like meal kits, subscriptions, events, and more. Restaurateurs say that right now, 19 per cent of their revenue stems from products and services outside of their core restaurant offerings;
  • Canadian consumers are looking for a tech-forward approach from eateries – 60 per cent are supportive of local restaurants using AI-based tools, and 76 per cent would prefer to place their orders via self-serve kiosks. This bodes well for businesses where staffing is top of mind, as understaffing issues have persisted at restaurants for a reported average of 19 months;
  • All surveyed restaurateurs in Canada believe AI could solve some of their staffing challenges, particularly food prep robots (44 per cent), voice ordering technology (42 per cent), predictive ordering and inventory management (40 per cent), and food prep and delivery management (38 per cent);
  • 56 per cent of surveyed owners plan to increase their spending on technology and automation tools in the next 12 months, and 76 per cent of consumers want restaurants to invest in at least one area of automation when they’re not at full staffing capacity;
  • 61 per cent of Canadian retailers say they’re eager to expand in the coming year – though they are split on whether to prioritize brick and mortar (52 per cent) or online offerings (48 per cent);
  • AI-powered product recommendations is the top priority tool for Canadian retailers of all sizes to implement, especially for those planning to add more online options over the next year (41 per cent);
  • To compete in today’s marketplace, retailers are offering more choice and flexibility to reach new and existing customers – such as by implementing faster and easier communication channels with customers (42 per cent) and providing Buy Now, Pay Later options like Afterpay (41 per cent).
Kelley Keehn

In this video, Kelley Keehn, Founder, Money Wise Workplaces, discusses the findings of the report. She looks at how the AI revolution is reshaping industries and some of the latest innovations influencing the retail and hospitality landscape.

The Video Interview Series by Retail Insider is available on YouTube.

Connect with Mario Toneguzzi, a veteran of the media industry for more than 40 years and named in 2021 a Top Ten Business Journalist in the world and the only Canadian – to learn how you can tell your story, share your message and amplify it to a wide audience. He is Senior News Editor with Retail Insider and owner of Mario Toneguzzi Communications Inc. and can be reached at mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com.

The Video Interview Series by Retail Insider is available on YouTube.

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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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