News from Digital Main Street

City of Toronto Launches Digital Main Street Lab

Digital Main Street | September 22, 2016

On Wednesday, September 21, the DMZ at Ryerson University and the City of Toronto/TABIA teamed up to highlight the future of retail tech at the DMZ Industry Night event. Bridging with the successful Digital Main Street (DMS) initiative, this themed Industry Night brought together leading minds in the retail and e-commerce space, top Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) across Toronto and a curated group of startups for a panel discussion, presentations and demos to launch the DMS Lab.

The DMS Lab is a virtual program that builds a partnership between a startup and a BIA to pilot a technology with main street businesses. The DMZ Industry Night event was the first in-take of startups to present their solutions to BIAs and included demonstrations from:  

  • Shoelace helps businesses re-capture visitors who have abandoned their website (a.k.a. retargeting on autopilot).

  • AppMixture is a mobile app builder for ecommerce websites that turns an online shop into a native mobile app with a single click. 

  • Airi is a smart digital marketer in your pocket.  Airi understands exactly what you need to do to be successful in your business.  Airi provides education on how to do it yourself or will do the work for you at a low cost. 

  • ERPlain is an inventory management platform that lets small distributors and wholesalers operate in a more agile and efficient manner, freed from the tedious spreadsheets that once held them captive. 

  • ReUp helps retailers build their very own mobile payment, marketing, and loyalty apps for iOS and Android using unique colours, images, and branding.

  • truRating is the first service to collect accurate customer feedback from the majority of your consumers when they pay, affordably and simply, all while using your existing payment terminals. 

Retail in Toronto is rapidly changing and the DMS Lab aims to make Toronto a leader in retail innovation. The DMS Lab will achieve this by supporting Toronto-based startups to demonstrate and scale their technologies by creating an access point to main street businesses. The DMS Lab also empowers BIAs to leverage tech solutions as a pilot to meet their goals (e.g.: generate more customer traffic and spending in their district).

Digital Main Street will be announcing partnerships formed between startups and BIAs in the coming weeks.

Retailers and small businesses interested in adopting the right digital tools can join Digital Main Street today.

*Photo Credit: Satish Kanwar

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What is a Customer Journey

Salesforce Canada | September 20, 2016

In some circles, the term “customer journey” might be seen as an industry buzzword that doesn’t have any real effect on a department’s actual processes. Employees may believe that the path a customer takes from learning about a company and its products to making a purchase is something that can’t be shaped.

The concept of the customer journey is a marriage between knowing your target customer and adapting all interactions with them to encourage them to move forward in the purchase process. This idea is helpful for both B2B and B2C companies.

Though part of the funnel, the customer journey usually takes twists and turns that are harder to map. It’s not as simple as moving them down the funnel.  Below, we outline why the customer journey is so important, as well as how to use it to your advantage in multiple departments as part of a cross-platform, cohesive strategy.

Customer Journeys Are Unavoidable

Even if you aren’t 100 per cent sure what every customer’s journey is—and no company can truly track each customer’s every move—the fact remains that they are all going on one. When a customer sees a product and buys it within a single interaction, they’ve still gone on a journey, albeit a short one. While this does happen, most customers’ journeys aren’t quite as simple.

They may be exposed to the brand and product multiple times through a variety of different platforms: billboards, ads, radio commercials, email campaigns, and word-of-mouth, to name a few. To see this in action from an online perspective, the Think With Google blog has a great tool that allows you to see the average customer journey across different business sizes and industries in specific countries.

A customer may fill their shopping cart on your e-commerce site, and then abandon it for a week before coming back to complete the transaction. Everything—from what brings them to your site in the first place, to what causes them to leave, to what brings them back, and what eventually drives their purchase decision—is part of the customer journey.

Map Out a Persona

To start mapping out customer journeys, create personas of your target customers and those who buy your products and services. It won’t help you to create “ideal” personas that aren’t actually buying from you.

Personas can help you see the buyer’s journey from your customer’s perspective. This can affect how you build your internal campaigns and processes. Shape personas by identifying a persona’s name, gender, age, occupation, lifestyle, and why they would purchase a product or service like yours. Outlining the problem they want to solve will help you.

Once you've created a persona, you can then identify possible interactions each persona could have with your company, including any hiccups or positive experiences they may have throughout the journey. This process is called customer journey mapping.

Customer’s Brand Sentiment Progresses The Journey

As you create your customer journey map, it is crucial to consider the customer’s emotions as they progress. Their experiences (and how they feel about them) automatically translate into brand sentiment. For instance, if a person is in the research stage, but finds your website difficult to navigate, that may make the overall path to purchasing longer (or, in the worst case scenario, may cause it to end).

On the other hand, when they find that your prices and product descriptions are better than competitors, and that you also offer free shipping, their brand sentiment is going to be positive. This goes right along with a positive customer journey that will be more likely to lead to a purchase.

EffectiveUI has a great example of mapping brand sentiment and emotions onto a customer journey map. Ideally, every step of the journey needs to include:

  • The persona, as discussed above
  • Emotional experiences, with associated milestones for each scenario (e.g. fills out a form to get a free ebook, but the link is broken; alternatively, calls customer service to ask a question and has an enjoyable interaction)
  • Phases of the journey, from inquiry (researching and gathering initial information) to purchase and implementation into their lives or business

Customers Touch Multiple Parts of Every Brand

In the examples above, you’ll notice that customers are “touching” your brand in multiple instances. From exposure to and engagement with paid search ads during organic searching, to blog content they read from following a link on social media, the customer journey involves multiple departments.

In order to make a customer journey effective, it’s important to create a connected strategy that works with marketing, sales, and other departments. Strive to solve any potential journey roadblocks and foster the positive aspects of customer engagement that increase brand sentiment.

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FloorPlay Socks uses social media to expand their global footprint from their shop on Queen West

Andrew Seale | September 20, 2016

Janet Wright left a career in municipal politics on a lark in 2013 to launch FloorPlay Socks in an unused retail space on Queen Street West at the front of her husband’ s office for his video production company.

“My husband Mark, decided he was going to rent it out, he said ‘ you can have it for six months, let’ s see what happens,’ ” recalls Janet. It was a complete gamble on a burgeoning playful sock trend that was only just starting to take hold. “My original plan was if socks didn’ t work out, I’ d move on to something else.

”Mark gave her a small loan and in June she opened her doors.  

“By September I’d paid him back,” she says. “It just started growing... I don’ t even know why, maybe because it's easy (to buy someone socks) or because we love them –I always say ‘ you could have a bad hair day and still buy a pair of socks.’

”Within six months she knew she had landed on something special but before she plotted out future growth, she turned her efforts towards launching an online store.  

“I think it’ s important that every store has an online presence even if you don’ t sell online... just show your products off, take pictures, put them up every day,” says Janet adding that she uses Shopify to host her store. “We've shipped as far away as Australia... we ship everywhere.”

Over the past three years the store has expanded into two other locations – one just north of Eglinton on Yonge and another in Hamilton. But keeping pace with the expansion means staying in contact with all the other stores. FloorPlay enlisted in a cloud-based system to communicate between stores.  

“I can be at home work at home, I could technically be anywhere in the world,” she says.  

She also tracks sales trends, an important metric that has made the Queen West shop the go-to destination for Toronto’ s quirk sock needs.  

“Our point of sales Vend breaks it down by brand – by gender in brand, by category within brand – so I can tell you any given day how many socks we sell,” she says. “It’ s good because I can see trends, I can tell you from my perspective what is no longer the trend... I’ m constantly buying.”

The majority of the products come from small Canadian or American designers, many coming directly to her. She also sources suppliers by researching up-and-coming sock startups.

Social media is also a critical part of the business, something her kids have shown her the ropes with. It helps her connect with clients and expand her footprint.  

“People come in and will say ‘ can I take a picture?’  and ‘ I’ ll say only if you tag us,’ ” she says. In today’ s world of Google search rankings and online marketing, those tags become a commodity in-and-of themselves.  

“As far as the social media side, you’ ve got to do it, you’ ve got to be out there,” she says. “People will look for you and if you’ re not there, they'll find someone else.”


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