Canadian Consumers Are Growing Less Patient with Retailers - Retail Council of Canada

Canadian Consumers Are Growing Less Patient with Retailers

Time-pressed Canadians are more demanding and more likely to switch retailers if their experience is frustrating

Canadian consumers are becoming less forgiving and more high maintenance. According to a new study, consumers don’t want to wait in line for a cashier and they don’t want any hassles when they purchase online. They are expecting a more convenient, seamless and integrated shopping experience no matter how they shop.

Retail Council of Canada (RCC) and RCC’s Marketing Advisory Council conducted a study in partnership with Google Canada and WisePlum to ask Canadians about their requirements of retailers. The study surveyed more than 5,000 Canadians in all demographics to discuss their shopping preferences, expectations and needs. The results showed that Canadian shoppers demand a seamless retail experience no matter if they buy in-store or online and are more likely to switch retailers who do not provide a perfect experience.

Little Tolerance for Online Errors

Since the first Canadian ecommerce transactions 20 years ago, consumers have been willing to accept some fulfillment and service issues that come with online shopping. But that is changing.

Within the last five years, new technology, tech-savvy consumers and the growth of mobile has contributed to significant e-commerce growth. The 2018 study clearly shows consumers are becoming increasingly intolerant of frustrations, especially with online purchases. More than one-third (67%) of those surveyed reported having a problem with online purchases while only 41% of consumers said the same of in-store purchases. Considered up until now to be a convenience driver, online is becoming the Achilles’ heel of retail.

“We are seeing a consumer who will not hesitate to switch retailers when problems occur,” says Diane J. Brisebois, President & CEO, Retail Council of Canada. “Consumers are frustrated by long checkout lines in store, annoyed by all the credentials required for an online purchase or finding out a product is out of stock after they have decided to buy. Retailers in Canada are aggressively looking at new ways to quickly meet the increasing demands of consumers to remain competitive.”

The survey found the demand for a better experience is being driven by Millennials (59%) who report to experience more problems with both online and in-store purchases than older consumers (32%). Younger consumers expect flawless shopping experiences and are not willing put up with learning how to purchase a product.

“Younger Canadians are technology experts. They want shopping to be more personal, faster and better, and it should work across all devices and surfaces by merging online and offline to create one intuitive experience,” says Eric Morris, Director of Retail, Google. “They are moving fast, and retailers need to move faster. If a retailer can’t connect their customer to the right product in as few steps as possible, they will go elsewhere.”

Death of Brick and Mortar Exaggerated

Consumers have made it clear, they want both online and in-store choices, both for product and service. Online shoppers are increasing their demand for physical locations nearby in order to complete their experience.

Consumers are doing more research before purchase and are using both physical and digital stores to do it. It was assumed that consumers go into a store to touch a product but ultimately purchase it online. According to the research, 61 per cent of shoppers did at least one online activity prior to an in-store purchase while 65 per cent of shoppers did at least one offline activity prior to an online purchase.

Increasing Pressure on Retailers – Grocery Leading Innovation

Retailers need to focus on being omni-channel and frictionless when it comes to delivery or they risk losing market share. Based on the survey, consumers want speed, selection, service and price. Traditional brand affinity is fading.

“Our 2018 study highlights that a new generation of lifestyle and experience-driven consumers have specific demands when making a purchase and these expectations are increasing,” says Paula Courtney, Product Founder at WisePlum. “We found that retailers that were not able to reduce points of friction from their stores, and provide convenience, service and value lost customers.”

This year, consumers indicated that Grocery is especially where they want more convenience which includes: click & collect, curbside pickup, delivery to home, and designated pickup locations—all with the purpose of providing consumers with flexible options on how they can shop.

Click here to download RCC White Paper: The Blended Consumer Imperative: Insights on today’s consumer with advice and tips for retailers, and the Executive Summary: Understanding the Canadian Consumer:2018


About the Study

This study is a collaboration between Google Canada, WisePlum, Retail Council of Canada (RCC) and RCC’s Marketing Advisory Council. Conducted October 11 to 25, 2018, the researchers surveyed 5,007 Canadian retail shoppers in every major retail vertical. Field quotas were used to control the distribution of region, age and gender.  To allow for accurate comparisons, 2018 results were weighted to the same proportions as 2017 in terms of verticals within the purchase channel.

About WisePlum™

WisePlum™, a collaboration between LoyaltyOne and The Verde Group, is a product created to answer one critical question: where should a retailer invest in the customer experience to increase top line revenue growth and market share. Through a software-as-a-service delivery model, WisePlum provides retailers with customer experience insights that are financially quantified, benchmarked against the competition and delivered weekly for continuous market monitoring. LoyaltyOne is a global leader in the design and implementation of coalition loyalty programs, customer analytics, and loyalty services. Verde Group is a preeminent provider of customer experience measurement and management strategy solutions.

About Google Canada

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.  As a global technology leader, Google’s innovations in web search and advertising have made its website a top internet property and its brand one of the most recognized in the world. Google Canada has offices in Waterloo, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa with nearly 1,000 Canadian Google employees working on teams across Engineering, AI Research, Sales, Marketing, PR, Policy, and HR.

For marketing insights, data and useful tools designed to help Canadian retailers and brands stay informed and inspired, visit

About Retail Council of Canada

Retail is Canada’s largest employer with 2.1 million Canadians working in our industry. The sector annually generates over $76 billion in wages and employee benefits. Core retail sales (excluding vehicles and gasoline) were $369 billion in 2017. Retail Council of Canada (RCC) members represent more than two thirds of retail sales in the country. RCC is a not-for-profit, industry-funded association that represents small, medium and large retail businesses in every community across the country. As the Voice of Retail™ in Canada, we proudly represent more than 45,000 storefronts in all retail formats, including department, grocery, specialty, discount, independent retailers and online merchants.


Aliya Jiwan-Thawer | 416.999.3355
AJT Communications