Carol Wong-Li
Carol Wong-Li is Associate Director, Lifestyles and Leisure for Mintel. Carol researches and writes reports on the Canadian lifestyle and leisure industries.

The popularity of online shopping in Canada is undeniable with 80% of Canadians saying they’ve bought something from Amazon in the past year. Consumers go online for goods to take advantage of wide selection, competitive prices, and expedited shipping rates. However, convenience is the reason why Canadians still pick up the phone as opposed to racing toward their nearest store. As the retail landscape changes, new ideas will be implemented to attract Canadian consumers. So, what’s next for online shopping?

Smart speakers are changing how and when consumers shop

The greater usage of smart speakers has the potential to change the way consumers ask for and process information. Approximately 11% of the Canadian population owns a smart speaker and 17% of those who own one say they have used the device to shop online.

The use of voice assistants may often be used while consumers are multitasking. Amazon released an ad earlier this year introducing Canadians to the Amazon Echo, exemplifying the ease and efficiency it can offer consumers by showcasing a woman planning a summer party and asking Alexa for assistance throughout the process. The woman asks the voice assistant for the temperature, to reorder paper towels and to call up her summer playlist.

Owners of voice-activated speakers are also open to receiving information that is helpful and relevant to their lifestyle. Looking ahead, this has implications for brands and the way they provide information for consumers. In particular, as the nature of voice assistants is verbal, the information consumers are fed is more concise and streamlined compared to when a consumer is searching for information via desktop or mobile webpage. However, when responses are given in an auditory format via a voice assistant, they are given much fewer responses. For example, Google Home typically offers three options to a question such as “Where is the best Italian restaurant?”. This implies that the relationship between consumers and brands will also evolve moving forward.

Approximately 11% of Canadians own a smart speaker and 17% of those who do say they have used the device to shop online.

Amazon will continue to broaden its appeal to younger shoppers

Amazon released its Amazon Teen feature in the US which allows those aged 13-17 to get their own log-in for their parents’ Amazon Prime account. Teenagers will be able to keep their own wish lists, recommendations and Prime content private and separate from their parents but still able to enjoy the Prime perks such as free two-day shipping and stream Amazon content such as movies and shows. However, parents still have control as they are able to approve order details or set a spending limit.

Retailers create their own special celebration days

According to Mintel research on holiday shopping in Canada, nearly half (48%) of Canadians save their holiday purchases for special event days such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Retailers are aware of the higher consumer engagement and are taking matters into their own hands. Rather than fighting the clutter during these hyped-up days, there is a trend towards companies creating their own special sales event days as ways to motivate consumers during off-peak times.

Amazon’s Prime Day, which debuted in July 2015, is the epitome of this trend. More recently, Wayfair, an American e-commerce company that sells home goods, launched its very own ‘Way Day’ on April 2018, which promised some of its biggest deals of the year as a way to get consumers excited about buying furniture online.

Companies are finding ways to make shipping even faster

Companies are investing heavily in ways that will make shipping to the consumer quicker and more seamless moving forward. Which is why Amazon and UPS are investing in drones to make deliveries. Despite complex logistics and steep regulatory hurdles, the potential benefits to retailers of deliveries by drones are too good for retailers to pass up. While investment in such technology will cost more upfront, usage of robots to deliver items to customers ultimately means faster deliveries at a fraction of the cost for retailers.

Amazon is also exploring other ways to improve upon shipping. Late last year, the company announced its Amazon Key service which allows couriers to unlock a customer’s front door and drop of their package at home. Customers interested in this service will need to order a Amazon Key In-Home Kit, Amazon Cloud Cam, and one of several compatible smart locks. In a plan to make shipping convenient no matter where a consumer is, Amazon has announced that it will collaborate with GM and Volvo to deliver packages to the trunk of its customers’ cars.