Canadian Retailers Limping Online

Nearly two-thirds of Canadian retailers believe they are lagging behind their U.S. counterparts when it comes to e-commerce, according to IDC Canada’s “National Online Retail Industry Study.”

The report, co-sponsored by Microsoft Canada and Compaq Canada Inc., also found that barely 50 percent of the 132 retailers surveyed have a clearly defined strategy to embrace the Internet at this time. However, 64 percent expect to have an Internet and e-commerce strategy by 2001.

“The results indicate that the retail industry in Canada is taking a cautious but measured approach to integrating the Internet into their business,” said IDC Canada research manager Anthony Cina.

“Most retail organizations will be focusing on areas that can provide a healthy return on their investment,” Cina added. “Two of the main areas we see retail organizations focusing on in the next 12 to 18 months are improving customer service through Web sites and e-procurement.”

Room for Growth

Canadian retailers who have established a Web presence are primarily using their Web site as an online catalog. The survey found that 61 percent use their site as a product or service listing and only 32 percent use their site as an online ordering system. However, only 27 percent of retailers have sites with direct card payment systems.

Web sites are also being used to provide customers with personalized services. Twenty-eight percent of the retailers have sites with one-to-one marketing capabilities, and 22 percent have sites with profiling, personalization or membership services.

“Based on other e-commerce studies Compaq has seen, Canada’s retail sector is no worse or no better than other industry sectors in terms of its deployment of Internet technologies,” said John Keogh, a director at Compaq Canada. “That said, it has more to gain from e-commerce than most sectors.”

Customer Service Key

Most Canadian retailers believe the biggest benefit of e-commerce is being able to better serve their customers. More than 70 percent of respondents want their Web site solution to aid in customer service and care.

The survey also found that more than 50 percent want their Web site solution to provide marketing support, and more than 43 percent want to use the Web to extend their product line.

Within the next year, 46 percent of Canadian retailers plan to add a product or service catalog to their site, 38 percent plan to add online ordering capabilities and 29 percent plan to add real-time customer service.

Twenty-six percent of the retailers surveyed do not see Internet integration into their business among their top three priorities.

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