Technology and the Future of Canadian Retailing

Will Amazon drones come to Canada? Image:

Will Amazon drones come to Canada? Image:

By Charlotte Corner

The change in shopping experience

Robotic assistance, iBeacons, e-mannequins, virtual changing rooms, there’s no doubt about it that the 21st century has taken a big step toward the digital advancements. In a report published by Deloitte, 27.9% of the Canadian respondents prefer to shop online than go to the mall, which helps us understand why online sales figures in Canada increased by 12% from the previous year’s, reaching $136-billion.

Yet as technology and our shopping experience subtly merges, we’re complacent when it comes to noticing how much the industry has changed through digital enhancements and gadgets that sway and manipulate our shopping habits.

Omni-channel retailers are becoming more popular, these are companies that can offer a presence both on and offline as well as providing apps and additional extras that can help the typical shopper. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘try before you buy’ and it’s a term virtually catching on with companies that would like to capitalise on the online market. In particular now for home owners, Ikea launched their 3D app which transforms their catalogue to an online preview of furniture in your house. This means that you and I can check out Ikea’s catalogue via its app, check if the furniture matches our current interior and go in store to collect our reserved item. It’s all about functioning as one.   

Ten years ago, we’d have laughed at people if they told us we could try on virtual clothes in a space of minutes, yet now it’s an expectation to have the luxury of trialling clothes without having to visit a store. The nature of trying on clothes has drastically changed as we can browse through online shops, type in our measurements and see our favourite collections on the ‘virtual me’.

Whilst our ‘virtual me’ can show us the fitting of the products, they don’t quite portray the type of material and how it really sits on the moving body. Most fashion companies like Superdry there offer catwalk videos for their products for an extra helping hand.

This year has also seen iBeacons come to stores, Bluetooth transmitting mannequins that are able to send across alerts to neighbouring smartphones announcing in-store offers as well as what their mannequins are wearing. The tracking accuracy is on par beaming through set information at the optimal time to encourage us to buy. The iBeacons also gather information on us as shoppers, our habits and desired items to improve their targeted messages making sure it’s personal to us.  

High-end fashion stores have even implemented iPad’s into their walls to allow their entire collection to be viewed online, whilst developments are being made to allow us to interact with a virtual assistance via the technology. Even signs and banners that we see in supermarkets will be replaced with smart labels and sensors that have the intelligence to suggest products that will go with the ingredients in our basket, nutritional advice, its source and even alert you of potential allergy threats.

Consumer Behaviour

Yet with so many products being placed online and new ‘e-tailers’ emerging, a consumer has the scope of the entire web to select a store for their one-stop shop, be it clothes, groceries or appliances. We can buy what we want, when we want. With so much choice at hand, it’s no surprise that already the online platform has become too diverse for us as consumers, often leading us to neglect an online shopping spree and deciding to breathe the fresh air and heading out ourselves.

All the while, statistics do show that the internet has helped retailer’s profits as we are in fact becoming impulsive buyers, continuously adding products to our online basket as we browse. Research by Milo shows that it’s the checkout stage where we typically abandon our baskets as 67% of us decide to not go ahead with the order; 55% of shoppers wave goodbye to their online goodies because the shipping costs are too expensive.

As the online generation adapts to the constant development of the net, we’re a demanding folk that have a need for speed with the quickest possible delivery. Companies that capitalize on quick and efficient delivery are preferred services, especially if it involves a drone. A drone you ask? Having a robot deliver your parcel within minutes of ordering could soon be the norm after Amazon has asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to lift the rule of prohibiting the use of drones for commercial purposes.  The concept of thirty minute deliveries via robots could become reality.

What does the future hold?

Whilst we’ve already entered a world of what we once thought was unthinkable, wireless payments and ‘Click & Collect’ are becoming quickly outdated and what the future of shopping could see are even quicker payments via multiple opportunities. It could be that in the coming years it’s the click of our watch that could pre-order groceries or software specialized to voice recognition that memorizes our typical shopping list. Gesture controlled devices are also in the midst of being trialled looking to improve our relationship and natural experience with computers and making online shopping feel lifelike. The future is all about personalization and connecting with the shopper, creating cutting edge technology that will make memorize, understand and deliver.  

Charlotte Corner is a Content & Online PR Assistant at Search Laboratory, specializing in search and content marketing.

Today's Retail News From Around The Web: November 21, 2014