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MIA PEARSON

Will Canada emerge from e-commerce dark age this holiday season? Add to ...

The holidays are just around the corner and retailers have been in full force for weeks.

Shoppers Drug Mart kicked off this holiday season with a bang. The Canadian retailer ignited a social media frenzy among consumers for its controversial use of Christmas music starting Nov 1. While people might have thought it too early for holiday tunes, another trending topic that day revealed their excitement over the return of Starbucks’ Christmas #redcups.

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Now it’s mid-November and holiday advertisements are dominating the media as Toronto prepares for its annual Santa Claus Parade this weekend.

As the holiday season fast approaches, one of the biggest changes we’ve seen for consumers and retailers has been with e-commerce. Online shopping has become an alternative for consumers hoping to trade long line-ups for fast and convenient purchases. Until now, our U.S. counterparts have proven superior in this department.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology published a report in 2011, stating Canadian businesses had “generally underinvested” in e-commerce platforms as compared to the United States.

But, we’ve seen Canadian retailers make positive progress; this year, a Deloitte survey predicted that 60 per cent of Canadians will use the Internet for holiday shopping.

As the countdown begins, I can’t help but ask, will this holiday season mark the end of the e-commerce dark age in Canada ?

I think so. Here’s why:

Increased adoption of Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

Traditionally, Black Friday has been a U.S. phenomenon now followed by Cyber Monday, where brands offer discounts and promotions online.

Canadian retailers have finally caught on to what have consistently been two of the biggest shopping days down south. Some big brand names that are paying attention and giving Cyber Monday a voice in Canada include Amazon.ca , Future Shop and Sport Chek.

More retailers have attractive e-commerce offerings:

Holiday marketing online is finally reflecting what social and mobile technology have been offering Canadians for years: Brands are making e-commerce convenient, simple and affordable.

Best Buy‘s home page offers to beat any price “online or anywhere else.” Brands such as Lululemon Athletica and Indigo have also got it right, offering online gift guides, gift wrapping and free or discounted shipping rates during the holidays. This is the type of online customer service that makes e-commerce more attractive to consumers.

Showrooming:

Showrooming refers to a growing trend among consumers who use their phones while in stores to compare prices offered by competitors online and at other locations.

Globally, 53 per cent of smartphone users are doing this. As brands build out their e-commerce and mobile marketing strategies, they have an opportunity to become more competitive. As this trend continues and is combined with the increasing adoption of smart phones, e-commerce will continue to grow in Canada.

Social media growth:

This holiday season, brands have every opportunity to be seen and heard online. Word-of-mouth marketing is a time-tested and reliable source of advertising for retailers.

With the growth of social media this year, the reach of consumers has spread further and faster than in the past. About 67 per cent of Canadians log on to social media every day. In 2012, we saw the explosion of Pinterest and Instagram, which have become effective visual tools for consumers to quickly and conveniently share their favourite products this season.

People are pinning, posting, liking, tagging, commenting and sharing more than ever. Even Santa Claus has a Twitter account. With 95 per cent of social media users committed to maintaining their memberships, there is no sign of this slowing down.

Increased brand awareness online, updated social and mobile marketing strategies and greater access to social media mean this holiday season, Canada might finally bid farewell to the dark age of e-commerce.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

Join The Globe’s Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues: http://linkd.in/jWWdzT

Follow on Twitter: @miapearson

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