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A comprehensive new report delves deep into what the future holds for businesses with invaluable input from thought leaders and Canadian entrepreneurs.

Over the last couple of years, the pace of change has increased, especially for consumer shopping, selling and payment habits. Businesses are in the midst of a shift in overall methods of commerce. If the steps taken are done right, it bodes well for businesses in the future.

Despite recent challenges, some businesses hit the ground running at the onset of the pandemic and thrived. What’s the secret to their success? Square, a global technology leader providing tools and financial services for businesses, collaborated with Wakefield Research to find the answers. They conducted a survey of 1,000 customers and 500 retail businesses in Canada to gather their insights for the Future of Retail 2022. From this report, businesses can learn what it takes to evolve successfully in a changing world.


Keeping pace in a changing retail world

Automation is one area that is receiving plenty of attention. While companies are seeing it as a possible solution to ongoing labour shortages, it doesn’t mean replacing employees with robots. Automation allows staff to focus on more meaningful work. It’s a big trend with an estimated 93 percent of Canadian companies saying they use, or plan to use, automation technology to decrease the hands-on time of staff.

Consumers are turning to alternative ways of shopping beyond just online, including buying through live streaming and social media. During the pandemic, they’ve been accustomed to alternate channels and want options available to them. These seamless and easy-to-use omnichannel buying experiences are expected to grow in scale in the upcoming years.

It’s a win for businesses, too. Omnichannel commerce builds customer loyalty and provides multiple touchpoints for maintaining contact with consumers. The barrier for some retailers is a lack of knowledge about technology that prevents them from selling goods via newer online or social channels.

As Darryl Julott, Managing Lead at Digital Main Street, explains: “If you’re a smaller business, you need to look holistically at your business, your customers and your current omnichannel marketing strategy to see where you have gaps and where you can actually begin implementing a full-fledged strategy. You don’t want to get so far down the road and into the weeds with no direction. Pull back before you jump in — figure out how you’d be able to correct things and make adjustments on the fly.”

Consumers seek alternative shopping channels

Even as in-person shopping rebounds, the demand for e-commerce isn’t going anywhere. Retailers will have to adapt as consumers change how they want to buy and pay. The report findings show 61 percent of consumers prefer contactless payment, while 36 percent of retailers say they no longer accept cash. That makes adopting other payment solutions like mobile wallet apps, touchless card payments and QR payments a smart move.

Though consumers say they want contactless shopping, they still want connection, which is why conversational commerce is emerging as a leading trend for retailers. It allows businesses to meet their customers where they are. The data shows 47 percent of retailers reported they currently sell or plan to implement selling via text or chat. Customers are already embracing alternate channels with 23 percent buying retail items from salons and spas through social media channels.

Social media isn’t just about connecting, the report states. It’s about customer demand and translating it into sales. “By fine-tuning their message on all social channels available, retailers have a unique opportunity to meet millions of potential new customers and reach existing ones to help drive additional sales,” explains Brandon Levy, Square’s general manager, inventory, fulfillment and merchandising.

With change comes opportunity. Businesses can stand out by offering interactive, memorable retail experiences. Stores can break out of the box and experiment with inventive ways to keep customers engaged and spending more time with their favourite brands.

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