Recap of eTail Canada 2013: Omni-Channel the Buzzword Heard Round the Globe

Our friends at OrderDynamics have posted a great roundup of the eTail Canada show, which wrapped less than two weeks ago though it feels like ages already (time flies when you’re having fun!)

Here’s some of their thoughts on the show. Thanks guys – wish I could have been there! (Anyone else out there have some insights to share? Send them my way!)

“The third installment of eTail Canada offered the most accurate portrayal of eCommerce and omni-channel retailing in Canada that we’ve ever seen,” the OrderDynamics post stated. Here’s what else the company had to say: Blog - Lowes-Shopping Channel

Day One Highlights

The opening keynote panel, which featured Ted Starkman (former President of the Shopping Channel) and Tanbir Grover (Director of eCommerce at Lowe’s Canada), touched on an array of high-level omni-channel concepts including the idea that mobile sites and strategies are playing an important role in supporting in-store shopping experiences. Tanbir continued to suggest that as an online community we still need to figure out what the right mobile experience is, and that we need to spend the same amount of time and thought on mobile shopping sites and strategies as we’ve done in the past for desktop experiences.

The final theme of this panel session discussed Canada’s retail landscape and the incoming wave of U.S. retailers expanding north of the border. “Canada is seeing global competition for the first time,” said Starkman. He continued to explore how Canadian retailers will react to increased competition and aggressive expansion plans. He also noted that many of the U.S. retailers set to enter Canada (or currently entering Canada) already have strong awareness with Canadian consumers, citing Target and Nordstrom as notable examples.

Later that morning, OrderDynamics CEO, Michael Benadiba, led an executive roundtable discussing best practices being used by mid-large retailers to deploy omni-channel commerce initiatives. The roundtable featured great contribution and savvy advice from some of Canada’s biggest and most sophisticated retailers – both Canadian, as well as those based out of the U.S. As if it wasn’t already clear, the appetite and desire to deliver a best of breed, unified shopping experience is at an all-time high in Canada. While it makes perfect sense, it’s encouraging to see such a challenging undertaking taken so seriously by senior retail leaders. As we’ve noted in recent omni-channel focused webinars, executive buy-in is a critical when launching omni-channel commerce strategies.

Tara Conway (Director of eCommerce at Toys “R” Us Canada) spoke about Toys “R” Us and its ongoing cross-channel efforts to drive improved shopping experiences and deliver ultimate convenience for their customers. According to Tara, cross-channel customers for Toys ‘R Us are more loyal, and buy more than single channel customers (her stats suggested cross-channel customers buy three to four times more frequently, similar to results from Macy’s). Tara also suggested major challenges in launching (and maintaining) omni-channel strategies are ensuring e-commerce and IT departments are completely aligned, and that endless online aisle inventories can lead to frustrating in-store experiences when product assortment isn’t consistent from web to store – two points that can be overlooked when creating customer-centric strategies.

Day Two Highlights

eTail Canada’s second day started with a keynote presentation from OrderDynamics VP of Operations, Tammy Nyman. Tammy’s address focused on the evolution of Canadian consumers, their expectations, and what retailers are doing to meet these growing expectations. She also outlined the percentage of Canadian retailers operating eCommerce websites (statistics were collected from an independent study of 900+ retailers in Canada by OrderDynamcs in January 2013).

Following Tammy’s session, she continued to chair and moderate several speaking panels throughout the day including an insightful panel that featured Todd Dean (VP of Cross-Channel and eCommerce at ALDO Group) and Thierry Hay-Sabourin (Director of eCommerce at Best Buy Canada/Futureshop). Like much of the conference, this session focused on omni-channel retailing, and how Canadian retailers are “flattening” their organizations to adapt to modern shopping expectations and reduce channel-centric approaches. Thierry had a great quote that truly depicts the challenge that lies within omni-channel commerce, saying,

“Multi-channel retailing means involving every area of your business and working together. It means massive disruption for organizations.”

Todd added to that too, saying,

“Omni-channel is a re-think of the retail model. It supports the consumer decision making journey. [Aldo] has no hesitation to change our online experience if it isn’t supporting our retail stores.”

The afternoon keynote presentation featured Peter Sheldon of Forrester Research. While the tone of Peter’s presentation was a bit more urgent than that of previous sessions, it was largely based on his views that e-commerce in Canada has so much potential. Peter talked at length about the need for Canadian retailers to offer more convenience and improved fulfillment options to customers, suggesting both Futureshop and Laura Canada as market leaders. Peter’s presentation offered revealing stats and trends about Canadian consumers and their shopping habits, including the fact that two-thirds of Canadians have purchased online goods from US retailers – a sign that Canadian consumers aren’t afraid to pay more (duties/shipping, exchange rate, etc.) for products they want and can’t find locally.