Canada’s Digitizing Retail Landscape

By: Andrew Bowden, Field Marketing Manager, SAS Canada

One of the biggest events in the Canadian Retail industry is just around the corner. On June 2-3, retailers and thought leaders from across Canada will be gathering at the Toronto Congress centre for STORE2015 to discuss the top issues facing the industry today with a look forward to the future.

This year’s agenda focuses heavily on the disruption to traditional retailing practices. With the rapidly growing popularity of digital and mobile channels and a more technologically mature population, Canadians are diving headfirst into e-commerce. This trend can provide huge advantages to those that are ready to capture customer data and use analytics to drive innovation within the areas of customer experience, product development, and cyber security to name a few.

Using analytics to improve the customer experience would seem like a no-brainer, but innovating here is more complex than segmenting your customers and prospects in order to determine which products they’re most likely to buy.

Leaders in this space are combining deep analytics with traditional customer experience practices to enhance marketing, social interaction, user interface design, and brand management. No matter what channel we choose to interact with our customers, retailers need to recognize that digital isn’t just about the channel, it’s the mechanism by which people are creating and sharing experiences; engaging not only with each other, but the companies with whom they do business.

Using analytics to anticipate behaviours and monitor real-time performance are crucial ingredients for differentiation and increase agility in this new world. Gone are the days when every campaign required months to plan and execute; customers waited to speak with call centre representatives; and made do with crummy user interfaces. Customer strategies have to be adaptive and relevant if they’re going to be successful. Product development is a particularly interesting area where data and analytics, mainly text analytics, can be leveraged to improve existing products. Customers are telling you everything you need to know to drive product improvements and innovation. Whether it’s by capturing and analyzing the text on your product pages to social media channels and call centre records, there is a wealth of information available beyond that of traditional focus groups. This concept is not new, auto manufactures have been using this technology for decades analyzing warranty claim records to fix potential issues before they resulted in mechanical failures.

Some of you may also remember Lululemon’s luon scandal from a few years ago when customer complaints about the fabric thickness resulted in adapting the product line. Your customers are telling you what they want, it’s just a matter of how carefully you choose to listen and act on their suggestions, complaints and preferences. And let’s not forget the speed at which you choose to react. Social media has the power to destroy a brand as disgruntled customer complaints spread rampant on social channels. The world of social media is real people, with real opinions, in real time. This represents real danger if you’re not involved or responding to these complaints fast enough.

Cyber security is a particularly hot topic as of late, especially for retailers. It seems every few months a large company announces that it has been hacked (Sony, eBay, Target). It seems like every week brings another high-profile cybersecurity breach making Cyberattacks a standard part of the news cycle and it doesn’t seem like they’re going to slow down. According to a recent study by ISACA and RSA Conference, over 80% of organizations expect to be attacked in 2015.

As systems become increasingly more con+nected, and therefore offering hackers more ways in, defending them will get harder and harder. It turns out the key to stopping hackers in their tracks is data – lots and lots of data.

Cyber Analytics is one new approach that looks at all network data as it’s moving around your organization in real-time, correlating billions of daily network transactions while layering in contextual information. This allows cyber analytics systems to effectively detect aberrant behaviour on the network, rather than waiting for a rule based engine to trigger when something is amiss leading to a much better and more rapid response to security breaches that could compromise company and customer data.

This is an age where information is the key. From relevant marketing to detecting cyber threats it is the organizations that are assembling the richest data sources, superior customer analytics, with the ability to act in real-time that will have a sustainable competitive edge.

I invite you to engage with our SAS team at STORE 2015 to discuss the themes above and more. Present this year will be myself, Andrew Bowden – Field Marketing Manager, Shawn Smith – Sr. Retail Solutions Specialist, Colin Freemark – SAS Canada Retail Practice Lead, John Tulley – Retail Account Director, and Patrick Green – Retail Account Executive.

About SAS

SAS helps retailers and grocers spend less time crunching numbers and more time growing revenue with key technologies customized for today’s multichannel merchants. Built around a powerful core of market-leading business analytics, our comprehensive suite of retail solutions tackles the industry’s greatest challenges, including customer insight (customer intelligence and social media analytics); price optimization (regular, promotion and markdown); size optimization (size profiling and pack optimization); assortment planning; integrated merchandise planning (allocation, space management and optimization); forecasting (across the enterprise and across market segments); and loss prevention. With more than 35 years of experience working with leading grocers and retailers, SAS helps retailers make better decisions faster. Learn more at

Andrew Bowden is Field Marketing Manager for SAS Canada. Andrew tweets at @bowdenan and can be emailed at