All talk? Canadian companies realize the opportunity with mobile and social media but slow to capitalize on it: PwC

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TORONTO, October 23, 2012 — Eighty-one per cent of Canadian private companies say they want to grow and expand, relying primarily on sales and marketing as well as gaining market share from their competitors to do so — however, they could be using mobile and social media in better ways to help get them there. This is according to PwC’s 2012 Business Insights Survey. The report, released today, surveyed over 400 Canadian private companies CEOs on the major issues affecting their business growth.

Companies are on the right track: more than half (53%) say that mobile computing is their priority when it comes to technology development, while almost half (47%) also say they plan to use social media for sales and marketing purposes.

“Mobile and social media platforms are transforming the way business gets done,” says Tahir Ayub, PwC’s Canadian Private Company Services Leader. “If Canadian private company leaders are looking to grow their top line, they need to have a very good understanding of technology in general – but if they don’t, they need to invest the time in overcoming that learning curve because it’s a business imperative.”

But despite the majority’s desire to invest in mobile and social media, only 13% of CEOs who are using social media plan to use it to develop new products. Aayaz Pira, Director, Management and Technology Consulting, PwC, says, “This is a huge missed opportunity. Social media gives consumers a voice to be part of the business and the ability to collaborate with companies to develop the products and services they want.”

A quarter of Business Insights respondents also say they have no plans to invest in mobile and even more than that (28%), say they don’t plan to use social media at all. Pira says, “This reflects organizations unaware of the factors involved with managing social media, such as cost and labour, the lack of knowledge around the return on investment, and being weary of risks associated with social media.”

“Businesses need to make an investment in social media before than can determine the overall return. In order for them to be effective and stay head of their competitors, they need to continue to innovate by embracing and using social media and other digital technologies,” adds Pira.

Catering to customers
Personalized services, such as having immediate access to a service or completing a retail transaction at anytime, is key for customers and in the next year, 41% of private-held companies plan to optimize their websites for mobile and 24% aim to create a mobile application. Many of these will be tailored to suit consumer preferences.

Ayub says that companies need to do a better job of listening to customers because it is one of the most important ways to help ensure a company’s success and to differentiate it from competitors. A quarter of this year’s respondents are using social media to hear what customers have to say.

“Each customer wants to be viewed as the most important one to a company, this means companies need to do more to understand their preferences, their feelings about the brand and how they want to engage with the company,” says Ayub.

Closing the labour gap
With labour shortages and the recruitment of skilled staff as one of the top three issues for private companies in the next 12 months, social media can be a powerful way to attract and retain new talent. Thirty-four per cent of respondents plan to use social media to do just that.

“Social media allows companies to take a targeted approach to finding the right talent and speaks directly to Millennials, a demographic group that has grown up with technology,” says Pira. “Millennials expect to use the same technology in their personal and professional life in order to be productive in their jobs. If they realize companies are not using social media inside the organization, it’s going to be difficult to retain that talent.”

In terms of employee engagement, only 16% of respondents using social media plan to use it to foster internal collaboration. Pira says this is another area of improvement for private company leaders as employees are ‘selfsumers’ – they have their own technology preferences enabling them to work more efficiently and they enjoy working together using social networks.

“The ability to collaborate and create new ideas with peers and companies in real time is quickly becoming one of the key differentiators between companies that can vs. companies that can’t,” adds Pira.

Driving change from the top
For organizations to innovate and initiate change, the push has to start from the top. Seventy-seven per cent of company leaders clearly communicate their company’s business focus on innovation as a priority.

“Organizations and people are naturally resistant to change,” says Mr. Ayub. “And what has the greatest impact on that is the leader of a company. When leadership embraces and rewards change, it cascades down throughout the organization, regardless of its size.”

Mr. Ayub adds, “Leaders set the vision, encourage, engage, inspire and establish the culture that says it’s okay to fail, to try new things, to improve, do better and ultimately perform better.”

For more information on the 2012 Business Insights Survey, please visit

About Business Insights
The eighth annual Business Insights®: Survey of Canadian Private Companies examines issues affecting privately held companies including ownership, foreign markets, current & future performance, innovation, leadership and talent. In the summer of 2012, we surveyed over 400 leaders of Canadian privately-held companies from a broad range of industries. Data is also available for the 406 respondent companies by revenue, number of employees, age and region. For more information, please visit:

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About PwC’s Private Company Services (PCS)
More than 65% of PwC Canada's clients are private companies, ranging from high net worth individuals to owner-managed family businesses and large, professionally-managed businesses. PwC's Private Company Services (PCS) group is a dedicated team of business advisors who help private company owners resolve day-to-day business issues and achieve long-term success. PCS offers the perspective of a third party with professional industry knowledge, business consulting, tax and accounting expertise. For more information about PwC's Private Company Services, please visit

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