Thursday, August 14, 2014

Inside Insights: Susan Williams

Next up in our Inside Insights interview series brought to you by Consumer Insights Canada,we sat down with Consumer Insights Canada speaker Susan Williams, Senior Director, Strategic Insight, The Cadillac Fairview Corporation Limited, to discuss strategic insights and Canada's consumer culture.

Consumer Insights Canada is a conference focusing on the power of insights to inspire smarter decision making and shines a lens on shopper and consumer behavior in Canada. Whether you’re looking to break into the market for the first time, or just deepen your relationship with Canadian consumers – this is your must-attend event. 

Here’s what Williams had to say:

IIR: What makes insights “strategic insights”?

Williams: Strategic insight implies it impacts business thinking and decision making in my opinion. We can get a lot of insight from data, but turning that into actionable results is the strategic part.

IIR: What is the key to using the power of consumer insights to make smarter decisions in business?

Williams: I can't think of any business where the client/consumer/guest is not a critical part of a business success. Ensuring you are relevant, in tune, and in touch with your consumer through quality consumer insights is key. 

IIR: How are shopper insights unique in Canada compared to the rest of North America?

Williams: The act of gathering consumer insights is not unique, but there are a lot of similarities, but many differences as well in the results. It is important to understand the geographies and influences that impact behavior in different markets. Geography can sometimes limit accessibility to certain types of services or products. We see differences in attitudes towards technology even across the country in Canada, and compared to the US there are additional differences. In some of the work we have done we have seen a greater emphasis on value as well in Canada vs. the US. It is important to note as well, the makeup of the Canadian consumer is different in some ways multiculturally than the US consumer - especially in terms of ethnicity. All of this stresses the importance of ensuring relevancy in any market that you go into.

IIR: Where do you see the shopper culture in Canada 5 years from now?

Williams: Technology is and will continue to shape how people shop. Accessibility, transparency, access to information and how this translates into relevant shopper experiences of the future. Ecommerce is a way of life, although not as developed as in the US and other countries, online browsing/accessing information and pre-shopping will continue to grow in Canada.

IIR: What’s your advice on effective ways to reach Canadians on the path-to-purchase?

Williams: Understand their consumer journey and purchasing influences relevant to your category or product. Clearly ensuring a seamless omnichannel experience will be important as ensuring that the right type of communication and information is conveyed at the right time. Just because some technology exists, it doesn't mean that it is always relevant to your shopper. Get and know your shopper.

IIR: What’s the best part about shopping in Canada?

Williams: Increasing selection and choice in retail. World class brands are now entering the scene providing one of the most exciting times in consumer choice and shopping in history. Our geographies as well provide significant cultural experiences from one part to the other.

IIR: How is technology empowering the always-on shopper today?

Williams: Pre-shopping is big and continues to grow. Social media, technology in general is everywhere and mobile phones are the shopping vehicle of the future. Everything is now, information is accessible, and the shopper is in control.

IIR: How do you embed a culture of customer experience in your organization?

Williams: This is a key foundational platform for our organization currently. The value proposition is about the experience as in many cases the product can be replicated. It is lead from the top, and needs to form a part of the corporate strategy. We are all in a learning stage. Ensuring that consumer insight is a key component of this journey is critical.

IIR: What is the future of Big Data?

Williams: Big Data always existed, but it has now been reinvented with the introduction and mass of digital behavior statistics. This will continue to grow and become more and more relevant but faces many challenges. If companies haven’t figured what to do with "small data" how will "big data" solve their problems. What still remains to be a critical component of any data digging exercise is to ensure that there are people that know what to do with that data, and develop the right questions to lead the analysis . It is also important to make sure that in a lot of cases, big data is very powerful and creates stories and impacts of initiatives, but doesn't always tell you why? Still important to keep the dialogue going with shoppers to marry the behavioral data with consumer insights. 

IIR: How do you see mobile affecting the future shopper in Canada?

Williams: Mobile is the future. Eventually, mobile payments will be the norm. It already is growing at a rapid rate. It means that information has to be faster, relevant and connected to technology. People are now shopping 'in the moment" and mobile is enabling that.

IIR: What have you learned about millennial shopper insights in Canada?

Williams: It is important to make sure that we don't just create a broad brush and group people into large categories. However, some key influences of this generation are that millennials grew up on technology. It means it is already part of their behavior and they will continue to expect this in everything you do. They may be seen as fewer brands loyal, and because technology enables it, expecting rate of change of products, brands, services to evolve quicker.

IIR: Why is it so important these days to connect with customers in virtually every channel of this multichannel world?

Williams: It is the omnichannel experiences. Shoppers expect it, and they chose how to communicate with you. Understand however which channels are most relevant for your shopper and your product and ensure your messaging is tailored within. It doesn't mean eliminating channels however, just understanding the role that they play within your brand.

If you’d like to hear more from Susan, don’t miss her session, “Leveraging Big Data for Mall Merchandising Mix Decisions” at Consumer Insights Canada on Monday, Sept 29th from 1:30-3:00 pm. The event is taking place this September 29-October 1, 2014 in Toronto, Canada.

For more information about the event and to register, click here:

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