First-in-Canada Digital Shopper Marketing Agency Launched

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By CBJ Staff

Studies are consistently showing the face of retail shopping is evolving into a brand new frontier and it’s all about digital mobility.

As of 2012, it’s estimated more than 80 per cent of purchase decisions are now being driven outside the store, leading retail and shopper marketing firm SVM of Montreal and digital solutions expert Piranha of Toronto to join forces to launch the first Canadian-based digital shopper marketing agency, called Digital Connect.

Digital Connect, with offices in Toronto and Montreal, will combine the latest and most innovative shopper marketing strategies with state-of-the-art digital technologies – from e-commerce solutions and text message offers to mobile apps, digital signage and more – to enable manufacturers and retailers to connect consumers with brands and products in a real-time positive shopping experience, say the agency’s founders. Digital Connect is the first Canadian agency specializing in digital shopper marketing with the mission of helping retailers and manufacturers create value-added shopping experiences, connect more efficiently with mobile consumers and grow their business.

SVM had been looking to get into digital retail marketing for about 18 months recognizing that digital is becoming more and more the norm for a vast number of consumers in the marketplace.  The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Stephane Drouin, president of SVM, from his office in Montreal.

“We were either looking for partners to work with or even hire someone to do that,” Drouin states. “Last April I was a speaker at retail mobile marketing conference and Dominic Gagnon of Piranha was there too so we both listened to each other’s speech and we sat after the conference and decided to talk.”

That meeting last April in Montreal is ultimately what led to the development of the new company.  The aim now is to provide a sold blend of technology and marketing with experts providing development in both those key areas.

“Being a digital expert doesn’t mean you have the retail sensibility,” Drouin offers. “That was our biggest challenge and it was the same for our clients on the retail side.”

“We’ve done a couple of surveys on our own and every day there is new research coming out from either the United States or Europe or even Canada that just reinforces the fact that consumers’ path to purchasing is more and more blurry especially now with social media. It’s not only a trend; it’s the new reference point.”

“In this 3.0 era where consumers are on the go and truly multichannel, manufacturers and retailers across Canada can now rely on Digital Connect to help them conquer the hearts and minds of their shoppers, no matter where they are,” he says.  Drouin and his company joined forces with Dominic Gagnon, CEO of Quebec and Toronto-based Piranha, to create Digital Connect.

Drouin cites surveys conducted last year that demonstrate 59 per cent of smartphone owners used their device for showrooming last year, compared to only 15 per cent in 2009. What’s more, 15.1 million social media users referred to smartphones, tablets or home computers before making purchase decisions in 2011, up 29 per cent from 2010. Showrooming is a relatively new term that began to surface earlier this year. In the past people would do their research online and find the retailer of their choice and go to the store and make their purchase. But now with mobile technology it’s the opposite. Now consumers find a product in a store and take out their mobile device to do price comparisons to see where the best deal awaits.

“You leverage the brick and mortar store as a showroom to pick your product and then you go online through mobile or at home to decide where you will purchase the product,” Drouin says.  Showrooming is a big threat for some retailers especially in sectors where product inventory is very similar – such as electronics and appliances – leaving consumer purchase decisions based on direct price comparisons between stores.

In addition, according to a 2012 Mobile Consumer Report, 82 per cent of consumers have their smartphone with them while shopping, and of the consumers who scanned or texted for more product information; 48 per cent felt better about their purchase.

“Mobile is really going to be the new connection with the shopper and I include the tablets in that as well,” Drouin states. “There is a significant level of critical mass of people who use mobile technology and it continues to grow each day. It’s clear that the consumer retail shopping experience and purchase decision-making process is rapidly changing, and both manufacturers and retailers need to realign in order to connect with customers in more effective ways. By deploying creative, targeted and innovative value-added strategies that are fused to the new reality of the retail world, where consumers are in physical, social and mobile modes all at once, Digital Connect delivers maximum impact and greater returns throughout the entire path to purchase.”

Explaining that the U.S. and Europe are currently more advanced than Canada in the digital retail world, Drouin added that, using SVM’s industry-leading expertise in shopper marketing, Digital Connect will enable Canadian retailers to master the digital frontier and offer consumers a world-class mobile shopping experience. What’s more, Piranha has been at the forefront of connecting brands with the more than four billion mobile device users around the globe.

“Our expertise combined with that of SVM’s will enable Digital Connect to truly turn consumers into buyers and real-time ambassadors of their favourite brands” Piranha’s Gagnon explained. “All the while, Digital Connect will deliver detailed, efficient and accurate analysis and performance indicators for each campaign.”

With Digital Connect already having begun working with several high-level retail clients, the agency plans to hire 10 new experts in the coming year.

Consumers are mobile thanks to communications technology, and as such are increasingly relying on digital tools to make purchase decisions both inside and outside the retail environment.

“They had great digital knowledge, but didn’t have the backbone of understanding the customer and the path to purchase and how to build relevant tools,” said Drouin, noting that shopper marketing is the fastest-growing marketing sector in North America.

Drouin and his partner say consumers are now in a multichannel era where manufacturers and retailers across the nation can now rely on Digital Connect to help them conquer the hearts and minds of their shoppers. By developing and deploying creative, targeted and innovative value added strategies that are fused to the new reality of the retail world where consumers are in physical, social and mobile modes all at once, Digital Connect creates maximum impact to generate great returns throughout the whole path to purchase.

“Already well known for its best in class expertise and knowhow in shopper marketing SVM, through Digital Connect, wants to enable Canadian retailers to master the digital frontier and offer to the mobile consumer the latest and best in mobile shopping experience just as in the US and Europe,” says Drouin.

“For the past five years, Piranha has been on the forefront of connecting brands with the more than four billion mobile device users around the globe,” adds Dominic Gagnon, CEO of Piranha. “Our expertise combined with that of SVM’s will enable Digital Connect to truly turn consumers into buyers and real time ambassadors of their favorite brands. This will clearly benefit both manufacturers and retailers.”

By combining the most innovative shopper marketing strategies with the latest technologies, Digital Connect will offer manufacturers and retailer’s state of the art digital technologies such as e-commerce solutions, text message offers, mobile apps, digital signage and much more in order to connect brands and products with the consumer in a real time winning shopping experience. Digital Connect will be an agent of growth for its clients all the while delivering detailed, efficient and accurate analysis and performance indicators for each campaign. The company is working with several high-profile clients at the moment, but Drouin says he’s not currently at liberty to divulge that information to the media due to confidentiality agreements. Digital Connect will operate as an independent entity from both SVM and Piranha, although it will draw its expertise from staff within both companies. 

Digital Connect will operate as an independent entity from both SVM and Piranha, although it will draw its expertise from staff within both companies.

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