The new retail ecosystem: From disrupted to disruptor

Canadian retailers are stepping up their game

Toronto, March 16 — The Canadian retail ecosystem has gone from disrupted to disruptor, according to PwC’s  The new retail ecosystem: From disrupted to disruptor report. As the pace of digital change continues to accelerate, reinvention has become a necessity. Be it online retail, ride-sharing services or streaming services, disruptors have already begun to influence consumer behavior in specific ways, such that their model has started to become the “new normal”. The proof is in the pudding and there is no doubt that giants like Amazon, Netflix and Uber have found the right way to mix convenience, affordability and variety into a winning recipe. Simply put, these players have found a way to anticipate and proactively mold consumer behavior.

"It all comes down to one question: are you being disrupted or are you a disruptor? Canadian retailers have access to a wide array of tools ranging from data analytics to robotics to behavioral economics. If they want to not only survive but thrive in this new ecosystem, they must be at the forefront of change and be proactive rather than reactive" says Sonia Boisvert, Partner and National Retail and Consumer Leader at PwC Canada.

In Canada, the use of ecommerce platforms goes beyond online shopping. It is no surprise, then, that a whopping 83% of respondents to the Total Retail survey are Amazon shoppers, of which 40% of them use the site to research products and 55% to compare prices in addition to online shopping. Disruptors not only thrive on change, they initiate it. They have figured out how to leverage the mobility space and turn it into an opportunity to change the game.

“Retailers are facing one of the most competitive environments in decades as new competitors continue to disrupt the status quo. They are in a tough spot. They will have to use all the resources available to them to uncover new ways to engage their customers and differentiate their products and services,” continued Boisvert.

The report examines six closely intertwined strategies retailers are using to stave off disruption and better attract and retain today’s mercurial shoppers. The underlying theme of these strategies is to create an immersive, seamless, brand-defining experience for consumers across all channels, one that will keep them coming back.



Disruptors are now competing on speed, variety and convenience. In fact, shoppers told us their motivation for shopping online isn’t always dictated by price; 32% selected convenience as the main reason for shopping online. Across all channels, however, low price continues to dominate shopping decisions for almost two thirds of shoppers.



Brand loyalty, while hard-won, is not easy to shake. In fact, 67% of Canadian shoppers describe themselves as “staunchly brand loyal”. That’s good news for retailers who have cultivated close ties with shoppers over many years with individualized coupons, marketing, and pricing. It also reinforces the power of one-to-one connections with customers via personalization, which new entrants online cultivate rigorously



Cost-prohibitive last-mile delivery issues continue to challenge retailers who are experimenting with a combination of options in response to customer preferences for speedy delivery. Trained to expect two-day or next-day delivery, customers have decided they like the option for home delivery or in-store pickup. 67% of Canadians expect a product to be available the same or next day if they select the in-store pickup option when purchasing.



Retailers need to entice customers to interact with them — whether online or in-store — and keep coming back. At physical stores, they can do so by providing a convenient, frictionless in-store experience, with the added advantage of knowledgeable sales staff who can explain product offerings, the number-one preference of in-store shoppers, ahead of ambience.



For a technology platform to succeed, it has to be part of an overarching digital strategy that encompasses the entire organization — rather than an ad hoc point-in-time initiative. Canadian respondents to our survey are open to using mobile payment via smartphone, with 30% using this technology in 2016, however this is significantly lower than the US mobile payment adoption of 46%. 



Continual experimentation and ongoing course correction is at the core of disruptors’ success — even when they are ahead of the game. From self-checkout devices to circumvent long check-out lines to touchscreen fitting-room mirrors that offer immediate help from sales associates, retailers are experimenting with a raft of options to make the shopping experience simple, convenient, personal, and engaging.

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