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Cyber Monday points to Canada’s retail future

If predicted Cyber Monday shopping trends hold true, the future of retail is being written not in a shopping mall or big box store, but on Canadian consumers’ laptops, tablets and smartphones.

According to the Bank of Montreal’s 2013 annual Cyber Monday Report, 49 per cent of Canadian consumers plan to shop online this year, an 11 per cent increase over 2012, and they’ll spend $273 on average. The figures mark a tipping point for online shopping, as they top the 47 per cent of respondents who said they planned to shop on Black Friday this year.

BMO’s figures confirm Boxing Day remains the holiday shopping day of choice, but the power of Dec.26th may be waning. This year, 59 per cent of consumers plan to get some shopping done the day after Christmas, down from 62 per cent last year.

Online shopping now commonplace

Cyber Monday’s rise echoes the growing popularity of online shopping, with a Visa Canada survey finding three-quarters of Canadians planning to purchase at least some of their gifts online this year.

They’ll spend 30 per cent of their total gift shopping budget online, with the majority of Internet spending going toward bigger-ticket items: half of consumers plan to spend between $100 and $499 online, and another 16 per cent will spend over $500. Statistics Canada estimates online shoppers spent $18.9 billion last year, an increase of 24 per cent over its previous survey period in 2010. On average, they spent $1,450, and made about 13 orders through the year. About 56 per cent of Canadians ordered something online in 2012, up from 51 per cent in 2010, and 77 per cent browsed online.

For a retail event that didn’t exist a decade ago – the term “Cyber Monday” was first defined in 2005 and has only become widely accepted over the past five years – Cyber Monday is already changing the way retailers work.

“Canadians as is the case with our neighbours to the South are becoming more accepting and trusting of the online channel,” Steve Tissenbaum, a professor with Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Retail Management, told Yahoo Canada Finance. “The easier that the retailers make the process, the greater the transparency around delivery and price matching the greater the trust.”

Omnichannel prevails

Traditional barriers between brick-and-mortar and online retailing are eroding fast as Canadians increasingly use online tools to shop smarter when they’re in-store.

“Consumers are using their smartphones, tablets and laptops for product research, comparison shopping and ordering,” says Tissenbaum, adding traditional consumer behaviour spans identifying a need, gathering information, weighing alternatives, making the purchase decision and buying the product.

“These activities, even if the consumer decides to buy in the store, are being done online,” he said. “Retailers have to recognize this and compete for the ‘clicks’ of consumers by ensuring the best possible information is available online and that the buying process is seamless and able to be transacted on all platforms.”

Tissenbaum says many Canadian retailers have remained on the sidelines, unclear whether investing in an integrated, omnichannel presence that blends the best of in-store and online retail best practice is worth it. He says the return on investment is clear, and it’s decision time.

“It is no longer a game of wait and see,” he said. “The numbers are in. Retailers who opt out will lose out.”

Carmi Levy is a London, Ont.-based independent technology analyst and journalist. The opinions expressed are his own. carmilevy@yahoo.ca

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