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What Canadian mobile shoppers don’t do (yet)

We are not “showrooming.” QR codes haven’t caught on. IDC data shows how retailers here should prepare for the future


showrooming Canada

While on a recent trip to San Francisco, I had a wander through Nordstrom Rack (the brand’s discount chain, slated to come to Canada in 2017) — for research purposes, of course.

The first thing I noticed, aside from a Marc Jacobs bag that was still way out of my price range despite a 50 per cent discount, were signs around the store that read: “Can’t find your size? Let’s find it! Use the Search & Send feature on our Rack Stores app or talk to a salesperson and we’ll ship it to you.”

While I’m still amazed you have to sign a piece of paper when you use your credit card in the U.S. (tap-and-go, people!), in many other areas U.S. retailers are ahead of Canada, particularly when it comes to mobility. And there’s good reason for this.

Take showrooming, for example. This involves visiting a bricks-and-mortar store to check products and prices before you buy online (or at a competitor for a cheaper price). This, of course, poses a significant challenge for retailers — though it’s not such a big deal in Canada. Yet.

In the U.S., however, during the 2013 Christmas shopping season one in five shoppers purchased an item from elsewhere on their smartphone while still in-store, according to an IDC study.

This isn’t the case north of the border. Indeed, mobile adoption is about two years behind the U.S., so it shouldn’t be entirely surprising that we’re about two years behind in the adoption of mobility in the retail space.

In Canada, shoppers are mainly using their phones to do things like look up a store’s hours, check a shopping list, or call or text someone to get their advice while shopping, according to IDC Canada.

In a recent survey, the research firm found that only 46 per cent of Canadian respondents checked the price of a product in-store against other retailers on their smartphone.

So if Canadian shoppers aren’t using mobile devices in-store as expected, should you start re-thinking your omni-channel strategy and how you’re prioritizing certain customer touchpoints?

Showrooming may not be common practice here, but if the U.S. is any indication of what’s to come, then Canadians retailers should be ready — particularly as tech-savvy retail heavyweights such as Nordstrom enter the market.

Sure, it hasn’t been an easy ride for American retailers here, at least not as easy as they thought it would be (consider Target’s not-so-rosy numbers) — but they do tend to have a more sophisticated omni-channel presence. And that will set the bar for Canadian shoppers.

The Nordstrom example shows how retailers themselves have a role to play in the adoption of mobility. And Canadian retailers are, in fact, building up their mobile capabilities. But it’s important to focus on the right areas.

IDC Canada, for example, found that only 28 per cent of Canadian shoppers surveyed had scanned a QR code in-store. But 69 per cent had downloaded at least one shopping app. It makes sense, then, to focus on apps, rather than QR codes.

It’s also a good time to focus on building the infrastructure to support those apps across touchpoints — before showrooming becomes the norm. Canadian shoppers may not be there yet, but it’s only a matter of time. So use that time wisely.

Smart retailers will not only be there when consumers are ready for the omni-channel experience, but they can help to drive consumer behaviour — and avoid being left behind.

Credit: BetterBizIdeas via photopin cc

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