How to gain an edge in ecommerce

A new report from Salesforce includes insights on how to meet Canadians' evolving shopping habits.
Man using mobile payments online shopping and icon customer network

With back-to-school, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the holiday season coming over the next several months, a new report from Salesforce aims to show what companies should be doing to gain a competitive edge on the ecommerce front during one of the most important shopping seasons of the year.

The Shopper-First Retailing Report was jointly created by Salesforce and Publicis.Sapient and includes data from this year and last year’s Salesforce Connected Shopper survey, as well as data from the Salesforce Shopping Index, which looked at the shopping activity of more than 500 million shoppers worldwide, during Q1 of 2018. A total of six thousand people were surveyed, including 1,000 from Canada and the five other countries (the U.S., the U.K., Australia, France and Germany.)

According to the findings, Canada ranked second highest for those beginning their journey with a Google search at 49% (behind only Australia, at 61%). Meanwhile, 86% of Canadian respondents said they begin with digital channels, 13% begin in-store and 1% start with a magazine or catalogue. Meanwhile, only 5% of them begin the shopping journey on social media or messaging apps (such as Facebook and Pinterest), the lowest percentage among the six countries surveyed.

Moreover, only 10% of Canadian respondents made a purchase by speaking into a device (like a mobile phone or voice-controlled device) over the last three months – again, the smallest percentage among surveyed countries.

As we head into the latter half of the year, the report suggests companies will need to offer unique and purpose-driven products with speed and through frictionless and personalized experiences.

In Canada, 69% of consumers said it’s important or very important to see new merchandise each time they visit a store or commerce website. While merchandising agility has become the “gold standard” of the industry, the report notes that “making it fresh” doesn’t necessarily translate to “fast fashion.” Rather, “it’s about profitably transforming the digital and physical shopping experiences to constantly surface what’s new and relevant.”

Moreover, marketplaces like Amazon are beating retailers on every consumer preference category (price, product variety, product availability, innovation and uniqueness) except for customer service, meaning they’ll have to reconsider outsourcing that work to call centres and provide innovative solutions instead, such as video chat or chat bots, if they are to compete.

Secondly, 46% of shoppers still prefer to buy in a physical store, compared with 35% on laptops and 18% on smartphones. And mobile usage continues to grow (up 17% year-over-year), with traffic from mobile devices accounting for 62% of traffic during the second quarter of the year.

More importantly, 71% of shoppers saying they now use a mobile device in-store (a number that grows to 83% for 18 to 44 year-olds), up from 62% in 2017. Yet, as the report notes, many bricks-and-mortar shops have failed to keep pace.

Finally, while personalization has become one of the most effective drivers of revenue growth, 64% of shoppers said they don’t feel retailers truly known them. Overall, the report found that 37% of revenue is influenced by just 6% of ecommerce visits that include engagement with AI-driven recommendations.