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Canadian Tire quietly announced last week that it was closing down the eCommerce function of Canadian Tire.ca. According to industry insiders this had been in the works for a while and there is some buzz that other retailers could follow. This article from the National Post sheds some light on the announcement. Evan Schuman of StorefrontBacktalk and Linda Bustos of Get Elastic have some great perspectives on it as well.
When an iconic retailer waives the white flag on this front, should it be interpreted as a blow to the Canadian eCommerce landscape? Is it an admission of an immature online marketplace, proof that e-Commerce in Canada continues to lag compared to other parts of the world? Exactly how can we view this? What signal does it send?
Well, the reality is that it is a call-to-action for Canadian marketers to raise the bar with a perspective of being in it to win it in the online space. In that light, it may just represent a positive inflection point for digital in Canada .
Market or Marketing?
Excuses for not realizing our digital potential are wearing thin and it is high time to stop looking at the marketplace and focus on the marketing. Instead of pointing a finger at consumers as culprits of our success or failure, we need to look inwards and examine how to fire the engines more effectively and efficiently with what we have available to us.
Admittedly, things got a whole lot tougher for businesses as new choices were offered up in an ever expanding media and channel marketing universe. But it got a whole lot more exciting too. And, there are many examples of those thriving.
Unfortunately, for many, adaptation and innovation has been more of a tough swing than it has been exciting – just ask the Newspaper industry. Perhaps the variety of new choices presenting themselves just confused matters and did not lead to optimal decision making. Could it just be a fear of the unknown? Or, maybe old habits die hard.
Whatever the cause, it remains a curious contradiction that the connectedness of our daily lives, at home and at work, are not better reflected in terms of where marketers are placing their bets to reach us, influence us or show us a better way to do things. In fact, the stakes are getting higher as consumers are now expecting it.
The sad realization that it is still considered “advanced” to bring together content (text, audio, video), search, advertising, email, community, shopping, personalization, data and analytics, testing (and a raft of other elements) and do them well. This should not be the case. There is too much riding on it.
Beyond Silos And Support
Remember when someone else in your company was in charge of worrying about Online. Someone else now needs to be everybody.
Progressive organizations increasingly recognize that silo, support-channel or “add on” thinking around digital is far outdated. And, there is a lot more involved than the simple notion of “build it and they will come”.
However, it still escapes many brands that success now (as has been with everything else) depends on on-going collaboration and integration from all perspectives. It is about thoughtful consideration and upfront inclusion in the business and marketing planning cycle.
Begin With Talent
It is obvious that a great on-site experience is relevant and intuitive, providing utility and value for visitors. It works to strike a balance with the pull and push elements that the medium affords. And, marketers employ tools and tactics, offers and enticements – offline and online – to fuel it.
What is not so obvious, however, is how to deliver all that.
It is not about technology or off-the-shelf solutions. Never has been. Quite often it is a soul searching exercise in customer-centric thinking across the enterprise. One that looks inside and outside the industry for the best in class examples (and the worst, I might add) to compare and contrast with, honestly and realistically.
The biggest challenge, however, is acquiring great Digital talent and ensuring an environment that helps retain them and grow their skills. Environments that foster deep knowledge building and execute by marrying the tested and true with the emerging and yet to be proven will excel.
But getting it right is not easy. It demands a heavy dose of experiential capital to continuously evolve. The difficult part is embracing the notion of experimenting more, taking calculated risks and failing faster to help the organization learn, share and grow.
The outcome of getting it right does not simply reinforce a brand, it becomes an essential element of the brand itself.
C-Suite Must Set The Stage
All that said, the most important factor (by far) is support from the top of the house to make it all happen. Without that top down support, the signal sent throughout is that its okay to marginalize Online and it does not demand/deserve collaborative focus or full integration.
Give Canadian Tire Some Credit
Canadian Tire executive is not clueless. This is not a knee-jerk manoeuvre and they deserve some credit for concluding that they were not doing it right.
The traditional flyer and catalogue may still work, but they are wise to envision a world where it does not (and we would be presumptuous to assume that they are not). Hopefully this step back will help them assess what role digital plays in the overall corporate strategy. Viewed as a strategic realignment to rethink and retool in a way that creates a real sense of purpose for the company and for customers, eCommerce may make a strong comeback one day. And that is a good thing.
The lesson here is to take a hard look at our digital efforts and ask tough questions about how well our marketing – online and off – align in today’s multichannel and consumer empowered world. Are you really structured and supported properly to make the most of the digital space? The good news is that this is still wide open territory and the potential is huge for those that work hard enough and smart enough to find the winning formula.
We all learned to walk by falling down. You know the rest of the story of what it takes to run.