News from Digital Main Street

Get ahead: parcel pickup helps your online store operate more effectively

Canada Post Blog | January 19, 2017

Small and medium businesses that tapped into Canada’s e-commerce boom – online sales are expected to reach $40 billion by 2019 – know the importance of fulfilling orders as quickly as possible. But, as you grow, balancing the volume of orders and the expectations of savvy Canadian online shoppers can make speedy fulfillment challenging. How can you keep up?


Get started with parcel pick up

An easy way to soothe growing pains while enabling faster, easier shipping is to use parcel pickup instead of trekking to a post office. Amber Stafford, the busy co-manager of Victoire Boutique’s  Toronto location, recently decided to use the parcel pickup service and likes the results. “Before, I had to wait until the store closed then head to a postal outlet in a taxi – we don’t have a store vehicle and our combined parcels can be heavy – and wait in line. Now they get out that much faster, no more cab fares and it’s way more convenient for me!” explains Stafford.

When does parcel pickup make sense?

As online sales grow, you may identify with these barriers to fulfilling orders in a timely fashion:

  • Business has expanded to the point that finding time (or space in the car) to drive to the post office is increasingly tough.
  • Staff are spending more time on shipping runs and less time focused on selling and other crucial elements to your growth strategy, such as marketing, customer service and improving your online store.

If these issues seem familiar, consider using a parcel pickup service to win back valuable time.

Parcel pickup explained in 57 seconds:

Parcels Pickup Cheat Sheet

Find parcel pickup services availability and cut-off times in your area here.

Get started with parcel pickup. Already using parcel pickup but want to make a change? Contact us now

Sources: Canadian Online Retail Forecast, 2014 to 2019, Forrester Research Inc, October 14, 2014. E-commerce Channel Report 2014, NPD Group, September 2014


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Retail Trends: 10 Experts Share Their Predictions for 2017

Alexandra Sheehan / Shopify Blog | January 19, 2017

With a new year comes change. New retail trends. New consumer behavior and demands. New tools and technologies to incorporate. New opportunities.

And with all that is new, retailers are forced to adapt to meet demand and stay ahead of the competition.

To help retailers learn what to expect and how it may affect their business, we reached out to 10 retail experts and asked them:

“What is your prediction for what will change in retail in 2017?”

Our experts talked about data, convenience, personalization, mobile, and digital. While the answers varied, there was one major recurring theme: Retailers and consumers are getting smarter. 

Without further ado, here are the retail trends our list of experts expect to see throughout 2017.

1. Treat Media as the Store, and the Store as Media

“Media is becoming the store. Retailers will use technology to make every single piece of media — be it social, online, mobile, or conventional — a direct path to purchase. This means providing exceptional content, decision-making tools and commerce software, so that anyone exposed to that media could confidently buy from you on the spot.

Conversely, the physical store is becoming a powerful form of experiential media. Your store should convey a powerful brand story through every touchpoint, provide lots of opportunities for immersive product experiences, and expose shoppers to your entire ecosystem of product experts, purchase channels, added-value services and loyalty tools. If you design your customer experience well, your store is the most powerful form of media at your disposal.”

—Doug Stephens, Founder of Retail Prophet, and Author of The Retail Revival

2. Customers Will Want to Feel at Home

“Customers are going to continue their search for unique retail experiences and reward retailers who provide them. Smart retailers will begin to understand that they need to treat their stores as their homes. This means welcoming customers into a warm and inviting — even edgy, if that is how you roll — place in which products aren’t pushed on you.

Undoubtedly, simple product acquisition is best and most efficiently done on the web. Product interaction, product romancing, product becoming a living and breathing thing can only occur in a physical environment where a real human story and dialogue can occur. Almost all online players today are discovering that they also need a physical space to truly touch the customer. As tech makes so much of our lives less human, consumers will crave more personal interactions. For retailers, this will mean a significant upgrade in staff — both in quality and quantity — if it is really going to work. You cannot fake real.”

—James Dion, President and Owner of Dionco Inc.

3. Convenience Will Be Key

“My prediction for 2017 is the rise of ‘push-button’ products and services. We’ve seen elements of this already: Amazon Dash Buttons or talking to Siri or Alexa to reorder specific products at home; Instacart to easily order grocery services for home/office delivery; UberEats, Postmates, and others to order lunch or dinner with the touch of a button. This is rapidly impacting consumers’ expectations about shopping, payment, and delivery.

Some retailers have even moved past the button and are building sales through subscription services. Trendsend by Evereve, MM.LaFleur, and Stitch Fix are all good examples of these. To prepare, retailers in all segments need to think differently about how they’re enabling shoppers to experience the merchandise and pay.”

—Mara Devitt, Partner at McMillan Doolittle

4. More and More Mobile

“The gorgeous promise of mobile retail will evolve and strengthen and become much more relevant to both consumers and retailers as the hiccups and glitches happening now will quickly become memories. Retailer strategies incorporating the mobile device will become much more sophisticated and honed for smooth integration into the overall customer experience.

I think we’ll also see a return to the basics when it comes to providing a rewarding and fulfilling customer experience with the frontline — retail associates in the brick and mortar and customer service online — playing the lead role in crafting that experience.”

—Judy Mottl, Editor at Retail Customer Experience

5. Investing in the Organization and Employees

“What happens inside retail organizations may be the most significant. Companies will start adopting different organizational structures that break down silos and integrate information and systems to facilitate those customer experience improvements.

Companies will also invest more in the frontline employee experience, as they realize paying higher wages and better equipped and engaged employees not only helps them fight the battle for talent, but also improves the customer experience.”

Denise Lee Yohn, Author of What Great Brands Do

6. Brick-and-Mortar Stores Will Get Smarter

“The physical store retail format will continue to evolve into smarter environments. Brands will continue to learn how to truly incorporate technology to create a connected store — not just for the ‘concept of it,’ but with the benefit of the consumer at the heart of design.

Store associates will be even more empowered with data and a more personalized understanding of customers (what they like, what they have bought, what they have browsed, etc.), and warehouse logistics teams will be more in sync will real-time, in-store demands.”

—Melissa Gonzalez, Founder, The Lion’esque Group, and Author of The Pop-Up Paradigm

7. The Rise of Cognitive Commerce

“While data has become more accessible for smaller merchants to utilize and apply to their business strategies over the past few years, thanks to various CRM and POS systems, 2017 will introduce businesses of all sizes to even more accessibility to data that will help them strengthen their business success.

Specifically, I believe that cognitive commerce will become more prominent among businesses to incorporate into their business strategies. This will help them in shaping future consumer conversations, enhancing existing product sell-through, understanding customer personalization better and more. Cognitive conversations lead to cognitive commerce — and that's something any merchant can appreciate.”

—Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, Founder and Publisher of Retail Minded

8. Look Out for Niche Retailers

“2017 will bring the rise of niche retailers, for both new brands and existing brands. This will lead to smaller store footprints and personalized service with knowledgeable sales associates. This will satisfy the demands from consumers who want a unique and customized service.

Brick-and-mortar stores will remain important and drive that customer experience. Larger, established stores will create more shop-within-a-shop opportunities to leverage niche markets and strategies. This trend also relates to emerging and improved technologies: fitting rooms, product details and sizing, social media, and mobile channels.”

—Courtney Albert, Manager at The Parker Avery Group

9. Retailers Will Enhance Personalization

“In 2017, retail marketers are going to become more skilled at finding the balance between personalization and optimization, better coordinating the relationships among the retailer, customer and supplier. Retailers will become more focused on how to leverage the various delivery channels to give customers the right messages at the right times to generate the best results.”

—Chen Katz, VP of Sales at Sagarmatha

10. Expect a Digital Shift, Not Transformation

“Most retailers will have already established a digital presence, but there will be an accelerated shift to mobile and cross-platform interactions. Mobile share of global ecommerce is expected to grow from 40% in 2015 to 70% by 2017, as we see the vast majority of online shoppers start transactions on one device and end on another. Ecommerce will be leading this paradigm shift since it drives change and folds in new technologies that come from the consumer.”

—Arish Ali, CEO at Skava

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PeopleFlow pilot keep tabs on returning shoppers in Bloor West Village

Andrew Seale | January 19, 2017

A day into PeopleFlow’s pilot run on Bloor West Village, David Howitt, chairman of the Business Improvement Area’s board and co-owner of Marlborough’s Stationery, was sifting through the data of local shoppers collected by the system. He called up Todd Lewis, president and CEO of the platform, which monitors and analyzes the movement of mobile devices within a given region.

“He said ‘hey, look, right in front of our store from six to seven your system says there’s a spike in traffic,’ ” says Todd. “So I looked into it.”

Sure enough, it showed a cluster of anonymous mobile devices in the area. So the next day, Marlborough’s stayed open an extra hour. They made an extra $200

“He had no idea,” says Todd. “It’s one of those things where you have these perceptions of what’s happening but when you have real data that’s recorded consistently it can give you a whole different perspective.”

The idea of collecting shopper data isn’t new – for years businesses have been asking consumers for their postal codes to see where they’re coming from. But PeopleFlow takes it a step beyond. It’s the sort of solution that could only exist at a time where Internet network infrastructure is improving and mobile devices proliferate.

Built by Todd’s geomatics technology company Spatial DNA, PeopleFlow is capable of treating a physical environment in the same way Google Analytics treats and collects data from a webpage. Consumers with mobile phones moving in and out of space are assigned anonymous identifiers then PeopleFlow pinpoints traffic flow patterns and users, like small brick and mortar businesses or B.I.A.’s, can get an idea of how often people are visiting and where they’re coming from.

Todd first brought the idea to Toronto B.I.A.’s in June 2015. They saw some interest, but it was hard to find a B.I.A. who wanted to move first. That is, until Todd connected with David at Bloor West Village.

“David at Bloor West prides himself on being the first mover on lots of things – they were the first B.I.A. in North America to adopt the technology,” says Todd.

They started rolling it out in August but realized quickly that there was no high-speed Internet infrastructure in the area. There was, however, a solar light system. So Todd and co. partnered up with Mississauga-based GenWave Technologies to overlay the Wi-Fi sensors and microwave relay network, piggybacking off the existing infrastructure. They went live two weeks later, just in time for the Ukrainian festival and had another chance to test it out during the Pumpkin festival in October.

“From a B.I.A. perspective, they’re doing marketing efforts and events… trying to figure out what the effectiveness of those events are,” he explains. “It’s one thing to draw people (but) do they come back to the area?”

In an area like Bloor West where segregated bike lanes have reshaped the flow of traffic, PeopleFlow has become a value tool for seeing what the longer-term effects – both good and bad – might be on the businesses. But Todd sees a future where businesses themselves start to adopt the technology or opt-in to the platform in order to garner some insight on who’s visiting the area and how to keep them there.

“(Some businesses) look at the solution like it’s going to cost a lot of money,” he says. But a lot of these solutions have fallen in cost and as Marlborough’s found out, the data pays for itself.

“It equates to one extra customer a month (to) pay for the solution,” he adds. “(PeopleFlow) quantifies everything so that they can make decisions based on what’s actually happening.”

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