Dx3 caught up to Marketing magazine editor-in-chief David Thomas ahead of his brand’s upcoming retail event to talk about the growing interest in how technology is driving an innovation revolution in the once-staid old world of Canadian retail.
David Thomas, Editor-in-Chief of Marketing Magazine
Dx3: What factors are helping retail technology gain new steam in Canada
Thomas: Well, it isn’t just here because Apple’s decision to push into NFC technology for mobile commerce is one of those global factors that is about to be a game changer. But one of the things I find really interesting is the last part of your question, the fact it is going on in Canada and there are a lot of very cool homegrown stories as well.
Dx3: That’s not something we would normally do, right? Think of Canada as a leader in retail technology innovation?
Thomas: No, but it’s changing. We’re hosting retail tech event in Toronto next week that celebrates the new environment. It used to be the stories that caught attention were predictably those about yet another domestic success story failing in its attempt to crack the U.S. market. Or we’d just hear the countdown to when Target is going to arrive on this side of the border, or Nordstrom or some other major U.S. player.
These days, there are so many larger retail players who have learned to be competitive and leverage digital commerce so that border become irrelevant. Think Frank & Oak; it communicated its brand message so well in targeting a niche audience of the nerdy male Silicon Valley tech geek who loves night-time photography. The company is in Montreal but a third of its customers are from California. Almost three-quarters are from the U.S.
Dx3: So what makes these businesses successful?
Frank & Oak and Herschel from Vancouver have both been really successful with branded content online. And then there are the more pure technology plays as well, such as Shopify, which is selling e-commerce platforms globally, and Aislelabs, a specialist in in-store customer analytics.
What’s driving a lot of these companies’ success is the fact that technology lowers the barrier to entry, not only in this market domestically but allows them to compete on innovation directly with their big ideas directly against bigger slower-moving players in the U.S. as well.
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