E-commerce is strong in Canada with most of the country's consumers going online to shop and research products - but this means retailers need to adapt their strategies and market their products through a greater variety of channels such as stores, catalogues and the web, according to a survey by J.C. Williams Group.
The Multi-Channel Retailing: Canadian Style survey of 2,000 Canadian consumers, which was co-sponsored by Canada Post, HP Canada, and Visa Canada, found that online shoppers had spent an average of Can$447 in the past six months, with 80% of them making two or more purchases online.
Improved product selection, superior customer service, and guaranteed merchandise return methods were found to be essential ingredients in developing repeat customers on the internet. According to Ralph McNeil, vice president of consumer marketing for HP Canada, "Almost nine out of ten consumers surveyed who shop online said they were satisfied with their experience."
One of the main barriers to e-commerce adoption among those consumers who prefer to shop offline was found to be concern over security. Those who had not shopped on the internet indicated that the security of their credit card and personal information is critically important to them, and some are still uneasy about providing that information over the internet.
However, according to Mike Bradley, vice president of new products and platforms for Visa Canada, over half of online purchases are completed using a Visa card. Bradley believes that by offering enhanced security features through payment card-based programmes such as Verified by Visa and CVV2 (the three-digit code on the back of the payment card), internet-based merchants can build their business while providing consumers with the peace of mind they need to be enticed to shop more online.
The multi-channel effect
Canadian shoppers also said that they are receiving more catalogues than in the past. There was a 14% increase in the number of catalogues they received between 2004 and 2005.
More than one in seven made a purchase in-store after having received a catalogue through the mail, and 83% said they had researched products online before buying in-store.
Interestingly, it was the most frequent catalogue recipients who reported the highest levels of online spending, suggesting that the technique of cross-marketing between the internet and printed catalogues can translate into higher overall sales.
Leading the way in e-commerce adoption are women, representing 55% of the Canadians who make purchases online. But age does not have the same bias: the proportion of Canadians making online purchases was surprisingly equal across all age groups between 25 and 64.
Jim Okamura, senior partner at J.C. Williams Group, concluded: "Canadian retailers need to provide more than just store locators on their web sites. They need to leverage their multi-channel capabilities through catalogues, the internet, and stores by providing real solutions and tools for shoppers."