Picture yourself walking down your local shopping strip. You feel the smartphone in your pocket start to vibrate. It’s a notification from one of your favourite local stores; it’s offering you a deal on something you happen to need. So you change your plans and head over …
Local retail is about to change. It has to. The pandemic has accelerated the convergence of the physical and digital economies, which means businesses face more competition than ever for the local dollar.
Canadians have told Interac they want to shop local, but it’s imperative for businesses to offer convenient digital payments options: At the recent Future of Retail summit, Communitech CEO Chris Albinson noted a recent Interac study that said 72% of Canadians aged 25-34 plan to only use digital payment methods going forward.
At the same time, digital technologies and social values-based retail experiences could encourage consumer behaviour at the local level — giving Canadians more reasons to shop in their own neighbourhoods.
Whatever challenges and opportunities the future may hold for retailers, they’re going to need fresh and innovative ideas to meet evolving customer needs.
It’s an ongoing process to engage different players in the ecosystem so we can identify innovations to help retailers to evolve in the changing digital economy. So, to inspire solutions for future-proofing the local retail sector — and give new ideas a push toward becoming a reality on Canada’s Main Streets — Interac led Communitech’s Future of Retail Collaborative.
Through the Future of Retail Collaborative, Interac engaged with industry leaders, main street businesses and startups to find ways to incentivize Canadian consumers to support local businesses. Our challenge statement? How can we incentivize Canadian consumers to shop local through charities and social values-based retail experiences? How can we leverage current or emerging technologies to drive unique online and in-store experiences in a new way?
After completing a challenge and solution discovery process alongside Collaborative partners and local retailers, Interac identified three startups to showcase their solutions at the Future of Retail Summit. In front of an audience that included fellow innovators and potential investors, the startups shared their ideas to help Canada’s Main Street businesses succeed in the changing retail landscape.
Company name: ShopLocal2Win
The concept: “A simple yet sophisticated turnkey promotional solution that encourages people to shop locally and submit their receipts for a weekly chance to win a large cash prize.”
To take part in a ShopLocal2Win campaign, shoppers are encouraged to spend a minimum of $25 at any business within the participating business improvement area’s (BIA) boundaries during a contest period for a chance to win. Founders Mary Pattison and Kim Lesperance say this incentivizes community members to spend tens of thousands more in a local area over six weeks (the length of one of their contests), and the BIAs use some of the proceeds to support charities. Despite the fact that its base is Toronto-only for now, ShopLocal2Win has already had 2,800 businesses participate.
In their own words: “Our clients are the BIAs, and our program is designed to address their unique pain points. What they value most, in addition to the ease of execution, is the hard data and transparency that we provide about its effectiveness.” — Co-founder Mary Pattison
Why they stood out: “The team at ShopLocal2Win developed a program that focuses not only on boosting local retail today, but changing consumer behaviour to make shopping local a prevailing choice in the future,” – Dinaro Ly, Director, Innovation Partnerships and Community Engagement
Company name: Artie
The concept: Artie uses augmented reality (AR) to boost foot traffic — by enticing local customers with instant promotions delivered as an experience that blends real life with gamification in an app. The way it works is comparable to location-based video games. If a user is looking to find a new place to eat, for example, they can explore the area using their phone’s camera. Here, the shopper can find and engage with AR tokens — say, a floating cup of coffee or an ice cream cone on their screen, which they can “pop” to find an offer from a local restaurant.
In their own words: “So this is how you can create an AR experience. And I’m really proud to say you can do this in about five minutes.” — CEO Abhishek Prasad
Why they stood out: “Artie makes AR accessible. It helps small businesses implement an AR solution to create social and interactive shopping experiences,” – Edwin Lam, International Product Development Director at Interac
Company name: Soundpays
The concept: Soundpays uses ultrasonic (that is, not audible to the human ear) sound waves to connect devices, leveraging a smart phone’s existing speaker to enable digital and contactless transactions. CEO Steve Doswell said local business improvement areas can use it to beam opportunities for engagement right into customers’ hands: product advertisements, coupons, shopper surveys and more. And when it comes time to pay, ultrasonic waves can connect a store’s point-of-sale to customers’ own devices (and there’s potential to connect a digital debit account to the app, too). Doswell said the information gleaned through customers’ interactions with the app could help build profiles of users — giving businesses insights into their customer base.
In their own words: “It’s all about getting to potential consumers in the power of the moment.” — CEO Steve Doswell
Why they stood out: “Soundpays is an example of how emerging technologies, such as ultrasonic sound waves, can support the ways consumers want to explore, shop and pay in the future,” – Dinaro Ly, Director, Innovation Partnerships and Community Engagement