Thursday, September 18, 2014

Visa Canada’s Head of Mobile Talks Canadian Shopper Culture

Not long ago we may have been able to argue that retailers thought that Big Data was just a bunch of hype that didn’t actually lead to better returns, but we’ve come a long way since then. In fact, a recent survey reveals that 73 percent of retailers consider shopper insights to be very important or essential to the performance of the departments in which they work. In addition, 76 percent think leveraging insights is important to the performance of the company as a whole.

I recently caught up with speaker Derek Colfer, Head of Mobile at Visa Canada and speaker at the upcoming Consumer Insights Canada conference in Toronto, to discuss how Canada’s shopper culture is unique to the rest of North America.

Here’s what Colfer had to say:

IIR: What makes insights “strategic insights”?

Colfer: I think all insights are strategic; however it’s their application to a specific opportunity that makes them meaningful and impactful.

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

Colfer: Consumer insights can help businesses evaluate the success of current products and are especially important when entering the product development lifecycle. The gaps in between product awareness, intent and usage can help businesses understand the needs of their customers. Visa recently utilized consumer insights with the design of Visa Checkout, a payment service that enables consumers to pay for goods on any device with just a few clicks. We know consumers are using their phones for more these days but that mCommerce can be onerous on small devices, leading to low conversion rates from cart to checkout. With Visa Checkout, we addressed issues like too many fields of information in the checkout process and big thumbs on small screens to ensure an easier online shopping experience.

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

Colfer: Canadian shoppers are savvy with a very high propensity for loyalty. A 2014 Maritz (Bond Brand Loyalty) report found that 90 percent of Canadians are members of at least one loyalty rewards program. We have also quickly embraced online shopping and have a high penetration of mobile usage. Almost 80 percent of Canada’s addressable population owns a mobile phone, according to a 2014 eMarketer report. These factors, along with companies like Starbucks and Tim Hortons who have tied loyalty to mobile payments, are helping to drive Canadian comfort levels with mobile payment adoption.

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

Colfer: Canadians will continue to use their mobile devices in a hyper accelerated manner. What we refer to as eCommerce today will become more of an omni-commerce experience, blurring the lines between various channels (in-store, desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile device, wearables, etc…) as consumers use more than one channel and form factor to search, compare, apply loyalty and purchase. 

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

Colfer: There are various technologies available for businesses to engage and interact directly with their customers on more than one device throughout any given day. One challenge for merchants is to ensure content and offerings are universally available across all channels so that consumers can shop in the channel that best suits their purchasing patterns.

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

Colfer: Canadians are incredibly loyal and the Canadian brands and merchants that we frequent tend to reward loyalty in a very innovative manner. The most notable recent example is the CIBC Tim Hortons Double Double Visa Card with a pioneering two-button technology that enables users to switch between paying with their Visa card with built-in loyalty, and the redemption of their earned Tim Cash rewards. I think we’re going to see a lot more of this type of innovation and loyalty tied to apps as we move forward and it’s going to positively impact Canadian adoption of mobile payments.

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

Colfer: Technology is incredibly empowering for Canadian consumers. It’s not uncommon to see a consumer take out their mobile device, open up an app and scan a barcode on a product in-store. That mobile app can provide access to an array of product reviews and ratings and it can also drive the consumer to make a purchase in-store with a profile driven incentive. Conversely, that same app can prompt a consumer to leave that particular store and purchase the product online or in a competing merchant down the street. Consumers remain at the center of the commerce lifecycle, however technology is empowering them today in ways we could not have imagined five years ago.

IIR: How do you embed a culture of customer experience at Visa Canada?

Colfer: Every digital product we build and put in market has been built with the lens of a consumer. 

Visa’s aforementioned Visa Checkout is a great example of this, and so is Visa payWave. Visa payWave allows a consumer to wave their card in front of a payment terminal to securely and quickly make payment, reducing time in line and at the cashier, improving the point-of-sale experience. This same technology provides the foundation for NFC mobile payment apps, which are gaining popularity in Canada and are available to consumers through Visa issuers like TD, CIBC, RBC, Scotiabank and Desjardins. Our Vision at Visa, to be the best way to pay and be paid for everyone, everywhere, prioritizes consumer behaviour and drives every product innovation.

IIR: What have you learned about Millennial shopper insights in Canada working at Visa?

Colfer: Millennials are early adopters of technology and are an important segment to consider in mobile payment adoption. According to a 2013 eMarketer report on age-based digital behaviour, Millennials are the prime demographic for digital adoption as they were born and raised during the emergence of the internet with an 80 percent adoption of mobile.

However, while Millennials are an important segment to consider with regards to mCommerce and mPOS, there are also other demographics with interesting behaviours that shouldn’t be forgotten. Gen X’ers lead all other age brackets in ecommerce purchases for family staples and are the most likely to transact on tablets and smartphones, according to an Ipsos Reid study cited in the same eMarketer report, and Baby Boomers have shown the strongest interest in loyalty programs. Sometimes I think we put too much focus on the current consumer insight trend rather than being strategic with more than one group.

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

Colfer: Canada is already very advanced in contactless payments, but NFC payments will become far more ubiquitous. Visa was the first payment network in Canada to pilot NFC in 2010 and we were the first payment network to commercially deploy with CIBC back in 2012. To date, TD, CIBC, RBC, Scotiabank and Desjardins all offer various NFC mobile payments to their clients that run through the Visa Network, providing Canadian consumers with many accessible options.

Canadians love their mobile devices and I think they will become more comfortable using them in-store to make purchases quickly and securely. New technologies like Host Card Emulation (HCE), where consumer data is secured in a cloud, will help to increase consumer usage. Visa’s new cloud based payment specifications allow our banks to offer the same interoperability, scalability and security to consumer’s phones that they trust with plastic cards today.

If you’d like to hear more from Derek, don’t miss him present at Consumer Insights Canada. 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:

About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1stDigital Impact, STEAM Accelerator and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at Follow her at @AmandaCicc. 

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