Google Canada and Retail Council of Canada announce new events to help retailers bridge digital gap

TORONTO, Oct. 15, 2014 /CNW/ - Retailers of all sizes are looking to grow their business during the crucial holiday season but need more help navigating the online shelf, according to a new survey conducted by Google Canada. Three quarters of Canadians (72%) say they will be conducting online research before buying holiday gifts this year, and name the web as their most influential source for holiday gift inspiration. In contrast, four in ten independent retailers say they won't be advertising online during the busiest retail period of the year.

While retailers recognize the value of digital and some have started to connect with their customers online, understanding how to make it work for their business - and impact the bottom line - is an ongoing challenge. The survey found that half of business owners (49%) want to use the Internet more to promote their business, but 'need more guidance and support.' To help these business owners get started online, Google Canada and Retail Council of Canada are today launching Retail Spark, a series of educational workshops and talks across the country.

Many small and independent retailers share that they have struggled to adapt to the modern consumer's shopping habits, which now includes hours of online product research before buying either online or in store. More than half (56%) say it is more difficult to be a small business today compared to 10 years ago, listing a range of reasons: the way customers shop has changed (37%), customers do more research before coming into store (28%) and the feeling that it is harder to reach customers (23%).

"The web has become central to how Canadians discover and decide on the things they buy during the holidays, from the latest tech toys to from to the perfect party dress," says Chris Hodgson, Head of Retail and Tech Sectors at Google Canada. "We know how hard small businesses work, and that the pace of technological change can be overwhelming. That's why we're working with Retail Council of Canada to help retailers of all sizes show up on the 'online shelf' this holiday season."

"The holidays are a crucial business period for our members and the retail industry. We're excited to work with Google Canada to continue to assist independent retailers to stay connected to their customers digitally," said Diane J. Brisebois, President and CEO, Retail Council of Canada. "With Canadians increasingly influenced by online and mobile sources – in advance of or during the shopping experience – those independent retailers that can tap into shoppers' digital journey will increase their competitiveness during the holiday season."

Shopify will be participating as the eCommerce partner for Retail Spark, and will be providing a group of their experts to help small businesses set up their online stores. Experts will be available for one-on-one sessions to answer all questions regarding adding and managing inventory, processing payments, calculating shipping rates, and syncing online and offline retail operations.

"This year we saw for the first time ever, across our platform, more people using their mobile phones and tablets to shop online than on their desktop computers," said Craig Miller, VP of Growth, Shopify. "This is a huge shift in consumer behaviour and if a small business does not have an online presence, they're missing out on a huge opportunity to grab the attention of these consumers. That is why it is essential that we partner with companies like Google Canada and Retail Council of Canada to help Canadian retailers compete on a global scale."

Other key findings from the research include:

  • Canadians love to shop small: One third of Canadians (31%) say they intend to shop at independent retailers this holiday season.
  • Canada is a nation of entrepreneurs: 64% of SMB respondents started their business on their own, as opposed to purchasing the business from a previous owner.
  • Small businesses are missing from digital shelf: 61% of small retailers do not have an online presence.
  • Traditional businesses feel the burden: Two-thirds of SMBs who rely on offline advertising only say it is harder to be a business owner today than a decade ago, 10 percent more than those SMBs who use online advertising in all or some of their marketing.

Google Canada and Retail Council of Canada will host Retail Spark events in Toronto (November 3), Montreal (November 5) and Vancouver (November 13). To register, retailers can visit retailspark.withgoogle.com and download the new digital starter kit. Everyone is invited to follow the conversation in social media with #RetailSpark.

Note to Editors: Two surveys were conducted by Ipsos MediaCT for Google Canada. One survey was conducted by Retail Council of Canada with Google Canada:
1. Ipsos MediaCT: 290 owners or advertising/marketing related decision makers of Small-Medium Sized Businesses (1-99 employees) across Canada were interviewed between September 9 and 15, 2014.
2. Ipsos MediaCT: A national sample of 1,054 Canadian Holiday Shoppers were interviewed between September 10 and 17, 2014. Weighting was employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects the Canadian population 18-64 years of age.
3. Retail Council of Canada: 266 owners or advertising/marketing related decision makers of Small-Medium Sized Retailers (1-99 employees) across Canada were interviewed between July 28 and September 18, 2014.

SOURCE: Google Canada

For further information: Media inquiries: Jenn Kaiser, Communications and Public Affairs, Google Canada, kaiserj@google.com


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