Canadian retailers lag their US counterparts by two years in terms of utilizing mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, a new study suggests. The research, conducted by the International Data Corporation Canada and the Retail Council of Canada, reveals that even Canadian consumers are ahead of their own retailers when it comes to using mobile devices—they regularly use smartphones to find product information and perform comparison shopping, while retailers are slow to adopt tablets as on-the-fly point-of-sale devices, for example.
"I think, ultimately, in many cases (retailers) will need to ramp up faster because of the speed at which consumer empowerment is changing," said Shafiq Jamal, vice-president of the retail council's Western Canada region. "It's about convenience, it's about giving information to the consumer at a time when they need it and want it."
40% of retailers are planning to use mobile devices to interact with customers in the next three years. Only 24% plan to do so this year. The Retail Council of Canada says retailers need to catch up to consumers' use of technology and social media.
"It creates a higher level of customer engagement because you're capturing the real needs of the consumer," says Leslie Hand, research director of IDC's retail insights. "You create better loyalty from that consumer."
Why is there a two-year lag? The US boasts a much bigger market, for one—a better incentive to adopt early. As well, Canadian retailers are burdened with higher labour costs, tariffs, and import duties, leaving them with inferior financial resources.