Most Canadian brands remained stable or improved in their customer experience over the course of the pandemic, according to the Forrester Canada Customer Experience Index (CX Index) 2021.
Clearly, Canadian brands and marketers for those brands have plenty on their minds despite the good news. Particularly, they are challenged with talent shortages, hybrid/remote work, social unrest, ongoing digital transformation and overall business and economic uncertainty, according to John Wiltshire, president and CEO of the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA).
“Challenges that are more unique to Canada are our relatively small but highly dispersed population with a few densely populated urban centers,” Wiltshire said. “To ensure that marketing remains effective, marketers in Canada place a high importance on media that serve and reach local communities. As well, there is a stronger need for marketers to focus on regional awareness and understanding when developing one-to-one targeting campaigns, which are becoming more commonplace as cookies are phased out.”
What else is on the mind of Canadian marketers as we soon move into 2022?
All Eyes Are on Federal and Other Privacy Laws
Canada’s federal privacy law, which applies to Canadian and non-Canadian companies that use, store or handle the personal information of Canadians and conduct business in Canada, pre-dates the digital era and is due for an update, according to Wiltshire. “The government introduced a bill late last year but it was not adopted before our federal election,” he added. “We anticipate that a similar bill will be introduced early and given some priority in the new parliament.”
Quebec passed a new law in September, the National Assembly of Québec’s Bill 64, an Act to modernize legislative provisions as regards the protection of personal information. “The result is that Quebec has significantly modernized its private and public sector privacy regimes, better adapting its legislative framework for the protection of personal information to present-day realities and keeping pace with international privacy developments,” according to a report by McMillan Law.
Marketers are waiting for regulatory guidance to understand fully how it will operate, Wiltshire said. Three other provinces are at earlier stages of the legislative reform process, he added. “We expect the federal government to press forward on plans to overhaul Canada’s internet rules to curb online hate speech,” Wiltshire said. “This will be relevant to marketers from a brand safety perspective.”
The governing party announced during the election its intention to create a Digital Policy Task Force to position Canada as a leader in the digital economy and shape global governance of emerging technologies, including with respect to data and privacy rights, taxation, online violent extremism, the ethical use of new technologies and the future of work, he added.
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Low Inventory and Delayed Supply Remain Concerns
Gerard Szatvanyi, CEO of Quebec-based OSF Digital, said low inventory and delayed supply are amongst the most common challenges facing Canadian marketers. It was a challenge over the summer months and remains so for the 2021 holiday season.
There are many ways Canadian marketers are dealing with this challenge:
- Marketers are encouraging customers to shop early for the holidays.
- Marketers are encouraging customers to shop online, using “In-Store pickup” as a mean to reserve their products, as to avoid customers being disappointed by empty shelves
- Marketers are trying everything they can to avoid customers coming to empty shelves.
“We’ve seen an increase in ‘Cart Abandonment’ being converted to ‘Cart Product Substitution’ journeys to offer customers an alternative for out of stock,” Szatvanyi said. “It is important for marketers to be mindful that, although they cannot solve supply issues, it is their responsibility to diffuse the situation through customer accommodation messaging and product substitution offers.”
Doubling Down on Ecommerce and Customer Loyalty
The global pandemic crisis demonstrated just how important a robust online commerce solution is to business for Canadian marketers, according to Szatvanyi. As customers flocked to online shopping, this created challenges for businesses and marketers alike.
“Over the past 15 months, marketers learned they must be ready to compete for customer loyalty and prepare their commerce channels for any scenario,” he added. “The growth of online shopping and its long-term impact made it clear that businesses must focus on customer’s experience across digital channels in order to strengthen their brand and deliver a seamless experience.”
For marketers, the increase in online shopping translated into a better understanding of shopper’s behavior. However, Szatvanyi added, with store re-openings, marketers are readjusting and there’s an accelerated growth on loyalty programs as an attempt to keep that digital relationship alive. “Thus,” he said, “connecting marketing, commerce and digital experiences has become increasingly important.”
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Investing in Multicultural Marketing
Canada’s ethnic and cultural diversity, and a general sense that multiculturalism is ingrained in the fabric of the country, means marketers in Canada have a will and a way to reach different audiences and demographics and meet their customers on their own terms, Wiltshire said. “This differs somewhat,” he said, “from the ‘melting pot’ lens that U.S. marketers may view their country through.”
“For U.S. marketers whose companies use, store or handle the personal information of Canadians and conduct business in Canada, it’s important to know that consent is a fundamental requirement in Canadian privacy law, particularly when it comes to collecting or using information for marketing activities,” Wiltshire said. “This differs from the U.S., where most statutes are focused on providing consumers with transparency or notice.”
Marketers Reimagining Roles
Marketers are, by nature, creative, innovative and resilient. While the pandemic presented some challenges initially, many organizations and marketers have found inspiration through the hurdles to reimagine new products and services and connect with customers and prospects in unique ways, Wiltshire said.
“Digitalization has increased at a remarkable pace,” he said. “The presence of marketing in the c-suite has been elevated, as many are now turning to marketers not just for the ‘what now?’ but also for the ‘what’s next?’ Canada as a whole has been well-positioned to weather the pandemic storm due to strong support systems for individuals and businesses, and an efficient vaccine rollout.”