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Retail Digital Disruption At DX3 Canada 2014

DX3 Canada 2014

Retail Category Consultants attended Dx3 Canada 2014, the country’s largest digital marketing and advertising conference and trade show. This year’s show had a focus on retail digital disruption, and here are the key insights and learning we took away from the two days.

Duncan Fulton, SVP Communications and Corporate Affairs at Canadian Tire Corporation and CMO of FGL Sports and Mark’s, was a keynote speaker and gave a transparent and honest talk about his own business. He shared how Canadian Tire and FGL transformed its culture into one that embraces digital marketing from the top down, which is exemplified in every business unit.

These are Fulton’s most enlightening insights:

Marketers have to deliver a return on invested capital.

Retail budgets are all about working capital.  Fulton and his team did not pitch a “digital strategy” to his CFO, but a “business strategy”. This was a term his C-suite could buy into. He had to demonstrate that this was going to deliver quantifiable value to the business and bring a return on the capital he was asking for.

Invest in open platforms and avoid custom legacy solutions.

Custom legacy systems are never built with the flexibility required in today’s fast-changing technology environment. Technology becomes obsolete by the time it hits the street, so your platforms have to be nimble.

Build digital expertise in-house.

This shows the rest of your business your total commitment. But Fulton was clear: this was not about digital marketing, but about “digitizing retail”. At the end of the day, they are still a merchant above all else.

Digital will disrupt your entire business.

From customer service to legal to in-store signage to supply chain to finance, there is no part of your business that digital will not affect. Canadian Tire foresees a flyer-free future for their business in the near term – what other multi-location retailer can say that (or would even accept that)? The key is to plan for the disruption, and anticipate the implications.

Be willing to make mistakes.

Canadian Tire/FGL/Mark’s is willing to make mistakes because they are good at learning from them. As we always tell our clients: “test and learn” is the mantra in today’s speedy market.

There were also some clear, unifying themes that underpinned many of the presentations we attended. With digital, the customer is in charge of the shopping experience. The retailer does not hold the reins anymore. Customers want to get the products they want, where they want them, when they want them, in the format they want them, at a reasonable price.

A company’s culture has to support and embrace digital from the top down. Without acceptance and understanding from the C-suite, it will not succeed. This is transformative. Supply chain is not sexy but it is the most highly impacted by digital and has to be done right. Data and content are king but will also become huge cost centres. Accept it and commit to it, because that’s the only way retailers can do digital right.


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