5 do-or-die strategies for Canadian retailers

by Microsoft Microsoft   |   June 21, 2017   |   Share this :  

This post for Canadian retailers offers five do-or-die strategies to help compete more successfully in today’s rapidly changing consumer marketplace.

This post was first shared on the ModernBiz Blog. To read the original blog, click here.


If you retail products or services (or read the news), you already know how this story starts. Stores closing. Brands getting shelved. Jobs lost. Investors half-panicking. No wonder so many media stories talk of the death of retail, like the Atlantic’s Great Retail Apocalypse piece.

Some good news

As a small business, you have something the big players don’t. You have agility. While a chain of mass merchant stores may take years and many millions of dollars to reinvent successfully, a small business, by definition, can turn on a dime. You can digitally transform your business, fast!

Five do-or-die retail strategies

  1. Ecommerce
  2. Mobile
  3. Social media
  4. ERP/CRM
  5. Analytics

1. Ecommerce

In Canada, ecommerce shows no signs of slowing down. Yet, usually due to a lack of technical or marketing knowledge, most Canadian retailers simply don’t sell anything online. In fact, most Canadian small businesses have no website at all. Eeek! What a miss.

By 2019, 9.5% of all retail transactions in Canada—representing CAD $39.9 Billion annually—will be conducted online. – Forrester

You need a website to compete and win in a modern, digital economy. Period. And you can now take advantage of numerous low to no-cost website building platforms. We often recommend GoDaddy, which launched a handy ecommerce website builder, no less!

“In 2014… 55% of Canadians owned a smartphone. Now, two years later, ownership is at 76%, a 38% increase. For the first time, three out of four Canadians own a smartphone.” – Catalyst

2. Mobile

Whoa! Three out of four Canadians now owns a smartphone. And we use them obsessively for just about everything! So, make your business mobile-first. That starts by publishing a website that’s responsive/mobile-friendly. And it means embracing mobile payment systems at the till.

For more on emerging mobile technology payment options for retailers in Canada, check out “Trendspotting: Mobile Payments—are you ready?” by Marc Saltzman.

3. Social media

Canadians have a crazy love affair with social media. Many of us spend hours on social networks, even at work. If/when appropriate, try to find ways to leverage their popularity. You can start by setting up a company profile page on a network like LinkedIn and then go from there.

“Almost 70% of [Canadian] internet users said they were regular social media users, logging on at least once a month.” – Marketing Sherpa

Then, network! Connect with current and potential customers. Join groups. Try sharing content, like updates with links or your own blog posts. Keep in mind that visuals rule social media, so if you have products to show, make sure to check out Instagram and Pinterest.

Oh, and protect your reputation! Keep an eye on your customer reviews at websites like Yelp. That way, if anyone complains, you can try to make it right.


While the first three strategies any retailer can and should pursue, our next strategy involves digitizing your business. Not just POS, but your business operations themselves. You probably already have systems in place, of course, but how well do they work?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools can give your team the ability to manage thousands of customer relationships, share info, and make contacts strategically.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tools allow you to operate your business, managing everything from procurement to sales and analytics in one place.

Of course, with Dynamics 365, you can get all your business applications—integrating both CRM and ERP—into a single, secure, scalable platform.

Platforms like these can impact operations dramatically, creating efficiencies, boosting productivity, and facilitating collaboration. And, because they get delivered through the cloud, you do not have to manage updates, let alone hardware, like servers. No fuss, no muss!

5. Analytics

As you digitize your business, you create the opportunity to collect and make sense of your transactional data. This analysis opens the door to everything from making better buying decisions to determining your best days and hours of operation.


For instance, Microsoft’s Power BI platform gives a store owner greater visibility and insights. This platform collects all your transactional data sources together. Then it helps you understand customer behaviour, visualize movements/interactions, and spot business opportunities.

The Power BI dashboard above gives you an example of the types of visual metrics business owners leverage to analyze performance and make better decisions.

Bonus strategy: Explore the possibilities

While it may sound like sci-fi, tech-savvy retailers already have some innovative efforts on the go. In this thought-provoking post, for instance, Ria Lupton touches on how IoT, machine learning, and advanced analytics allow retailers to track consumer “micro-moments.” Wild!

Can you build your own app leveraging powerful new technologies? For sure. Azure offers all kinds of cloud apps & services for retailers. But, what if you have big ideas, just not the computer scientists, developers, and other technical experts you need to DIY?

Then, you can always talk to a Microsoft Certified Partner about what you want and dream of doing. They have the expertise and training to help you make it happen.

Summary of what every retailer needs

We’ve covered a ton of ground here—from e-com to machine learning—so let’s just pull our five strategies together into one list:

  1. A mobile-friendly, ecommerce-enabled website
  2. A mobile payment solution at the till
  3. An active social media presence
  4. Modern business apps (e.g. CRM & ERP)
  5. Analytics tools for better decision-making
  6. Explore the possibilities!

So, what do you think? Did we miss a strategy? Please feel free to share your ideas on how Canadian retailers can help compete and win.

Related content

Talking Shop: Social Media for Retailers

12 low to no-budget marketing activities

Trendspotting: 6 key tech trends

The post 5 do-or-die strategies for Canadian retailers appeared first on ModernBiz: Microsoft Canada’s Small & Medium Business Blog.


The ModernBiz Blog helps Canada’s small and medium-sized business get the most value from modern tech. At Microsoft, we believe passionately that you don’t have to be technical to get modern technology working for you. And so we’re offering informative and topical articles, news, offers, success stories and more, all created and curated for real, everyday business people like you. Read more of our posts on the ModernBiz Blog.

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