Study Predicts Online Shift for 2017 Winter Holidays in Canada

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By Mario Toneguzzi

For the first time, more Canadians will be doing their holiday shopping online than those visiting bricks and mortar stores, according to a new survey.

The Accenture 2017 Holiday Shopping Survey says Canadian shoppers are continuing to leverage technology for convenience.

Kelly Askew, managing director of retail strategy practice in Canada for Accenture, says convenience is very important to consumers.

“That’s showing itself with the continued rise in online shopping . . . The majority of Canadians are going to do their shopping online,” says Askew.

The survey is in its sixth year.

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Askew says Accenture expects to see online shopping continue to grow so bricks and mortar retailers need to ensure they are doing everything they can to create a differentiated experience where customers are going to want to come to stores for other reasons than just completing a transaction.

“It’s a question of time. People are time starved. They are not setting aside days to go to the mall and do their holiday shopping,” adds Askew.

The survey found that 66 per cent of shoppers said they are familiar with Google Home and 75 per cent are already using it/would definitely use it/are willing to use it and 61 per cent are using – or are aware of – Amazon Alexa, to buy gifts this season. Also, 66 per cent of Canadian shoppers who responded to the survey said they first check Amazon before looking or buying anywhere else.

Nearly half of respondents want online wish lists to make the task of holiday shopping easier.

“This year, Canadians are putting a high premium on convenience and digital when it comes to getting their holiday shopping done,” says Robin Sahota, managing director of Accenture's retail practice in Canada. “Canadians are also moving toward being shopped and wrapped earlier than ever before, which means retailers must seize the opportunity to innovate and by offering a distinctive experience, lay the foundation for more profitable, year-round relationships. The key is to define their purpose, engage in a way that is memorable and be clear about the role they will play in shoppers’ lives.”

The survey says the rise of constant discounts from deal websites and Amazon Prime Day have lured more than half of Canadian shoppers, who are now shopping for holiday gifts throughout the year, including 65 per cent of older millennials (age 28-37) and 63 per cent of Gen Z (18-20) consumers. It says fewer Canadians are likely to shop on Boxing Day this year (64 per cent), down from 70 per cent last year. Also, 57 per cent of shoppers said they are less inclined to shop on Boxing Day and 48 per cent are less inclined to shop on Black Friday.

“There is a growing trend that shows Canadians are less willing to shop during major deal days, specifically Boxing Day and Black Friday,” says Askew. “Winning over the Canadian consumer will require providing active, rather than passive, shopping inspiration. This might mean proactively offering gift recommendations for a certain person, to help retailers influence a consumer's purchase before they even think about searching for ideas.”

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Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com

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