Canada: Holiday shopping feels the Uber effect



Canadian consumers are in no mood to wait in long lineups when they shop this holiday season, according to the results of an annual shopping survey.

Forty-one per cent of shoppers surveyed said they will abandon making a purchase in a store if the lineup to pay is too long.


On average, they’re willing to wait six minutes, with 65 per cent indicating that they would abandon their purchase rather than wait more than 10 minutes in line, according to the Accenture Canada Holiday Shopping survey, released Thursday.

Accenture’s Kelly Askew, managing director, retail strategy, points to new, frictionless exchanges — like the ease of using Uber and Airbnb — as part of the reason why consumers are becoming impatient with barriers to buying.

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Uber users register their credit card when they sign up, and every time they use an Uber service, they don’t have to rummage through their wallets to find their card or cash.

The purchase is automatically billed to their registered credit card and the receipt pops up in e-mail, reducing the amount of time spent paying for products and services to nearly zero.

Similarly, Airbnb customers register their credit cards once and are charged seamlessly each time they reserve a room.

“Customers get used to a very easy, straightforward experience with Uber and Airbnb and they start to expect that ease with every transaction they make, even if it’s a completely different industry,” said Askew.

“Consumers have developed an expectation that a transaction will be easy, and it’s certainly not an easy transaction if they sit there waiting 10 minutes. If retailers make it too hard for consumers to shop in store, harder than their expectation of how it should be, consumers will go to do their shopping elsewhere,” he added.

Askew said some retailers have already begun to try to reduce lineups with features like mobile point-of-sale devices that allow clerks to process purchases anywhere in a store, instead of just at the registers, and mobile self-checkout, which allows customers to use their smartphone to scan items in their carts and pay without having to line up at all.

A recent survey conducted by the Harris Poll for seems to back the idea that customers are losing patience with waiting in line — 77 per cent of respondents said they plan to skip the early-morning lineups outside bricks and mortar stores on Black Friday.

“I think there’s a couple of things going on here — we don’t have Black Friday off as a holiday here in Canada,” said Jeff Novak, brand director, Red Flag Deals. “In past years we saw people planning to take the day off and wait in line, but Boxing Day seems to be the more Canadian event — you have time off, you’re on holiday.”

Novak says the other reason for the reluctance to line up “is that people are becoming more and more comfortable buying online.”

Retail consultant Alex Arifuzzaman, of InterStratics Consultants Inc., said that whether or not a customer will line up depends in part on whether they’re saving any money.

“If it’s an impulse purchase then, yeah, people will walk out. It’s a value proposition. If they’re spending full price, they want full service, but if they want something that is a really big deal, they’re willing to wait.”

But, he added, the rise in the use and convenience and reach of mobile phones is making instant gratification the norm.

Respondents to the Accenture survey said they were planning to spend $873 on average on the holidays this year, up from $744 in 2015. Online shopping is expected to surge in popularity this year, as the number of Canadians who said in the survey they prefer in-store shopping dropped 15 per cent, from 62 per cent to 53 per cent.

Meanwhile, the number of respondents who said they plan to do the majority of their holiday shopping online increased 15 per cent, to 38 per cent versus 33 per cent last year.

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Over the past three years, discount periods have lengthened, blurring traditional shopping dates, according to product pricing and intelligence firm 360pi. This has muted the shopping frenzy around dates like Black Friday.

The survey from Accenture was conducted online Sept. 12-23, using a representative sample of 1,500 consumers in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary. The Harris survey was conducted on behalf of from Oct. 4-10, 2016, among 1,020 respondents living in Canada aged 18 and older.

Ernst & Young LLP (EY), is predicting holiday retail sales in Canada will grow 3.5 per cent this year over last year, as the federal middle-class tax cut, lower gas prices, an increase in consumer confidence and a reduction in cross-border shopping due the high U.S. dollar.

Source: The Star


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