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How retailers can
leverage online marketing

A successful online marketing strategy includes all digital tools to create a comprehensive holistic approach

By Bruce Kirby

There isn’t a day that goes by without the headline that another retail giant has decide to close its doors. Sears Canada’s decision to shut all of its locations earned it the Canadian Press business story of 2017.

The news won’t get any better if Toys R’ Us decides to close all of its US and Canadian locations after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. on September 18, 2017, and also filing for bankruptcy protection in Canada.

And it’s not only about Canadian retailers closing shop but new retailers entering the fray as more than 50 international brands entered Canada in 2017 by opening stores.

… not only are environmental factors impacting the market, customers shopping habits are changing because of technology.

Industry veterans have seen it all before – competitors leaving because they couldn’t handle the pressure or international retailers deciding to enter the Canadian market. The difference this time is that, not only are environmental factors impacting the market, customers shopping habits are changing because of technology.

According to Willy Kruh, global and Canada chair of Consumer and Retail at consultancy KPMG, it could get worse if retailers don’t keep pace with consumers and their rapidly changing shopping habits.

The days of hanging a sign outside your front window to get customers to come into your store are over. E-commerce continues to grow as a percentage of overall retail sales, and is less than 10% of all Canadian retail purchases.

Technological advances like mobile-friendly websites with top level customer support and multiple payment options give consumers new reasons to shop from home, the office or even while transiting by subway, without having to set foot in an actual store.

‘Consumers continue to demand online shopping options and leading retailers are addressing this by improving their online experience.’

And because 4 out of 10 millennials are living with their parents, online shopping and experienced-based shopping is rubbing off on their parents. Consumers continue to demand online shopping options and leading retailers are addressing this by improving their online experience.

If you’re a brick and mortar retailer that doesn’t have a website, you’re not alone. In 2016, a GoDaddy.com and Redshift survey of more than 4000 small businesses with 5 employees or less found that 59% of Canadian respondents reported that they don’t have a website, and only a third plan on building one! The #1 rule of marketing is being in the right place at the right time. It doesn’t seem that these businesses are paying attention.

The reasons that businesses gave for not wanting a website ranged from “I don’t have the time” or “it’s too technical”, and “it costs too much”. Websites are fairly low tech these days and don’t require a large investment of time or a dedicated resource, and you can get a custom website from $5,000 to $10,000 and only $1,000 to $2,000 for a standard website. Taking into consideration the lost sales that are occurring because your store doesn’t have a website, the real question that should be asked is, can you afford not to have a website?

‘While the demise of social media isn’t imminent, relying exclusively on social media limits your online marketing effectiveness.’

In the past, retailers and companies relied on social media as their online marketing. While that might have worked pre-2018, before Facebook answered to the US congress on privacy law violations, social media use is trending downwards. According to Edison Research & Triton Digital, social media use amongst Americans aged 12+ declined from 80% to 77% in 2018. Facebook usage has also dropped a full 5% down to 62%, with the 12 to 34 olds showing the biggest decline at 12%. Age 35 to 54 is down 3%.

While the demise of social media isn’t imminent, relying exclusively on social media limits your online marketing effectiveness. Social media companies are re-examining their business policies and can remove content from their websites that they deem inappropriate. A successful online marketing strategy leverages all digital tools in order to create a comprehensive holistic approach.

Canadian retailers can wait around until foreign competitors enter the market, which is occurring more frequently, and steal their market share, or they can work at creating top of mind awareness and forging customer loyalty by addressing their needs. I don’t have to tell a retailer that the customer needs to know you before they can buy from you.


Bruce Kirby - WestmountMag.ca

Bruce Kirby is the Principal with Silver Maple Communications a full-service marketing agency specializing in developing integrated marketing solutions for Small and Medium sized businesses. From business and marketing planning, to marketing communications and online marketing, SMC helps its customers’ create and execute those marketing strategies that get their products and services in their customers’ hands. If you have any questions you can reach Bruce at 514 452-4600 or bkirby@montrealmarketingconsulting.com 

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