All Canadian Retailers Must Engage Customers Digitally, Survey Says

For years now, many independent Canadian retailers have viewed the internet as a competitor. They blamed it for falling sales, then threw up their hands at the prices and selection that they couldn’t possibly compete with.

What Canadian small businesses are just now beginning to realize, is the internet isn’t their competitor. It’s a powerful tool and essential infrastructure in today’s business world. Fortunately, the internet is available to virtually anyone who wants to use it.

Canadian Retailers Must Engage Customers Digitally

With few exceptions, we’ve now reached the point where engaging consumers digitally is necessary to succeed in any business. It isn’t only for those who want to sell directly to online consumers either.

Research has repeatedly shown that today’s Canadian shopper expects to find you online. If they don’t find you there, they may never know about you. Even if they hear about you from somewhere else, chances are they’ll try to find you online. Your absence will be inconvenient and suspicious. In either scenario, you’ll probably lose them to an online competitor.

Certainly in retail, a business must be online just to survive today. That includes a website, ecommerce functionality, email, social media and any other digital touchpoint that appeals your ideal customer. Optimally, you’ll also open your mobile doors when customers are in or near your physical place of business. To thrive and grow, your goal should be an omni-channel customer journey, based on solid data that’s specific to your company and ideal customer.

“Online is overtaking the store for browsing, search and discovery phases of the shopping journey, while brick and mortar is still the preferred venue for completing a purchase,” concludes The Connected Customer: Maximizing the Benefits of Performance-driven Marketing. “Establishing consistent digital customer connections and extending those connections into the store is an essential advantage for retailers and brands. Digitizing the path to purchase is key to engaging customers consistently across channels.”

It may sound intimidating and overwhelming, but the learning curve is manageable for most. If you have the resources, you can hire someone to speed up the process.

Online Canadians

The average Canadian consumer – if there is such a thing – does have strong preferences when it comes to the online universe. Those preferences don’t always line up with the rest of the world, so getting to know them is a useful place to start researching your potential Canadian market.

Canadian shoppers visit the following digital channels before making a purchase:

  1. A website or app with a PC or laptop
  2. A website or app with a mobile phone
  3. A ratings and reviews website
  4. A social network (31%)
  5. A website or app with a tablet

Email is still a favoured promotion touchpoint in Canada, with 77 percent preferring it. However, 34 percent opted out of email promotions. Just 14 percent opt out of in-store promotions via
mobile device, and only 14 percent opt out of in-app promotions.

How Canadians choose which retailer to buy from:

  • 74% want the best price
  • 64% consider the variety of offers
  • 63% look to benefit through a loyalty program. 59% of Canadians surveyed collected or used loyalty points or vouchers recently. 40% of participants aged 35-44 prefer receiving digital discount codes, coupons, or loyalty card points. 27% say they favour a loyalty program app.

What makes Canadians impulse-buy?

Canadians are almost as likely to spend more than they planned if they receive a personalized promotion, as they are if tempted by a reward for frequent purchasing.

Canadians aged 25-34 are most inclined to make a spontaneous purchase if the offer is:

  • For a very ‘limited time only’ (34%)
  • Personalized to them, such as a discount on a product they buy frequently (33%)
  • Targeted by location via mobile, such as a discount notification while shopping nearby (31%)

Your Own Data is Most Valuable

The more you know about your customers, the more relevant your promotions can become. Sixty-four percent of Canadians surveyed respond best to engaging offers that are relevant to them, so you’ll have to get to know them better for optimum return on investment (ROI). Start by using the data you have, to identify the preferences of your most valuable customers and determine what they have in common.

Data literacy training from Statistics Canada shows you how to read, analyze, interpret, visualize and communicate data, as well as understand the use of data in decision-making.

✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Gift-Buyer’s Journey: Content Strategy Doubles Sales (Infographic)
Beginning Predictive Personalization for Ecommerce
Digital Marketing Study: The Most Effective Programmatic Advertising


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Digital Business & Marketing Manager at Online Business Canada | Website | + posts

Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on, and, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.

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Stephen Spizzirri

What loyalty software is best for small online business with a retail location?