Digital Strategy is Business Strategy At Canadian Tire: Part 1

This post is about a brilliant keynote presentation I saw last March at the Dx3 Conference. The keynote was given by Duncan Fulton, Executive Officer and Senior Vice-President of Canadian Tire, where he talked about the necessity for having a Digital Strategy in a Retail Business.


Fulton’s presentation brought up many themes that all retailers are struggling with right now. Themes like 1) Retail Innovation, 2) Technology Disruption and 3) How to remain relevant to customers. That’s why I thought it would make a great post. Fulton’s main message was that retail businesses must create and use Digital Strategies to connect with customers in order to remain competitive.

You can find links to the keynote (video and slides) below, but let’s get started by reviewing the content of the presentation. By the way, in my next post I will add some opinions of my own on what I liked most about Fulton’s presentation, as well as, a few things I think he missed but may want to consider in the future.

I found it very interesting that Canadian Tire’s CFO, Dean McCann, was invited to introduce Fulton. The business relationship between Finance (save/invest) and Marketing (spend) is on a tightrope and must be balanced properly for any business to be successful. Luckily for Canadian Tire, it seems that McCann and Fulton are on the same page when it comes to the strategic importance of investing in the right digital systems.

McCann summed up Fulton’s presentation best when he equated Canadian Tire’s digital strategy as being the same thing as Canadian Tire’s business strategy. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen many technical projects fail because business objectives were not addressed in the plan. Any digital project in retail that does not achieve business goals is doomed to be a catastrophic waste of time and money.

Fulton eventually took the stage, but Fulton referred back to CFO McCann when he said that his CFO doesn’t want him to make requests for money in a piecemeal fashion, project by project. The CFO, McCann, wants to be told how it all fits together. He wants to see a strategy that will give a predictable return on investment. Wow, what a concept! Right from the beginning, I knew this was going to be a great presentation.

Fulton sees the scope of tody’s retail problem as being the following …
1) Speed of Innovation & Speed of Obsolescence
2) Rapidly Evolving Expectations
3) Availability and “Curse” of Consumer Data (Big Data)
4) Availability and “Curse” of Content
5) Fragmentation of Expertise
6) Escalating capital costs & expenses related to “Staying Current”
7) Generation Gap for the C-Suite

Fair enough. I think anyone involved in retail technology would agree these are the relevant challenges right now.

As for the solution, these are the things that Fulton suggests a retail business must consider …
1) Invest in Open Platforms
2) Centralize and consolidate data ecosystem
3) Centralize and consolidate content ecosystem
4) Build digital expertise in-house
5) Fuel a culture that embraces digital
6) Do-It-Yourself to drive for cost-effectiveness

Fulton felt that to future-proof your business you must have a focus on and invest in 1) Data, 2) Content, 3) Technology & Applications & 4) Underlying infrastructure.

He added that 1) Top-Down vision & commitment, 2) Talent & 3) a Test & Learn Culture are also necessary.

I thought it was great that he admitted, “We are all still learning”. This shows organizational self-awareness and the willingness to explore and adapt. These are important traits to have in today’s business environment.

He also comment that in the future Retail will become about the experience that you can create in a store, not just the assortment of available products. I recently read a book called “The Retail Value Proposition” by Kyle Murray. You can understand more about how to do this by reading Murray’s book. Hmmm, maybe I will do a future post about that book.


Fulton then came to the part of the presentation where I admit he lost me a couple of times. I agree with his main point, however. Digital change is disrupting the entire retail business. You cannot isolate the disruption to a single part of the business. He also said that digital disruption will take years to work itself through the Canadian Tire business.

Let’s not forget that mixing business innovation with technology innovation makes for a great deal of complexity. Let me give you the description of how Fulton thinks digital disruption is impacting the entire business, but come back for my next post which might help you understand and communicate the business complexity in a simpler way.

Fulton sees digital disruption touching the following parts of a retail business … Merchandising, Finance, Supply Chain, Real Estate, HR, Communications, Marketing, Operations, Legal, IT & Franchisee Ops

Digital Disruption

In the end, he finished up with a couple statements that I’d like to highlight …

First …
“Digital disruption is swamping everyone, and no one is immune”

Second …
“The bottom line for us is our digital strategy is a retail strategy. It’s a business strategy underpinned by a culture and a team that are prepared to invest and believe in digital.”

Both these quotes are extremely important for anyone in the retail business today. Of course, simply having a Digital Strategy is not enough. You need action too. However, if you don’t have a strategy or plan, then you should better be prepared to waste a lot of time, money and energy trying to keep pace with your competitors’ digital investments.

Here are the links to the video and slides, as promised …
Dx3 Keynote Video – Duncan Fulton
Dx3 Keynote Slides- Duncan Fulton

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next post where I highlight the ideas that I liked in Fulton’s presentation, plus a few things that he may wish to consider for the future.

Digital Shopping Experience – Coming Soon To A Store Near You: Part 3

As mentioned in my previous posts on the Dx3 Digital Shopping Experience (Part 1, Part 2), I attended the Dx3 Canada (#Dx32014) conference in Toronto on March 5-6. The Dx3 conference brought agencies, brands, publishers and retailers together for two days of networking and education on current innovations of digital marketing in retail.

This is the last in a three part series of posts that describe what shopping experiences you might see coming soon to a store near you. I have one more post coming out for retailers who want to create exciting shopping experiences for their customers, but this will be the last one describing the shopping experience itself.

Before I get into the  digital shopping experience content of this post, I couldn’t help myself from including a picture of an automated display that I passed by at the conference. The display was meant to simulate a human greeting and then give a product pitch. I’m not sure what to think of it, but it definitely caught my attention as I walked by. On the other hand, although it caught my attention, I admit it felt a bit creepy to me. I think I’d still prefer to be greeted by a real person at Walmart.Welcome Display

On to the main digital shopping experience blog post content …

Since this is the last post on the shopping experience, it seems fitting that I should talk about a session given by Aran Hamilton of Vantage Analytics. Unlike my last two blog posts, I’m not going to introduce you to a new shopping experience this time. Rather, I want to talk about Aran Hamilton’s presentation, because I felt he did a good job of describing the general set of characteristics that all modern shopping experiences should include …

His expectations for a digital shopping experience are …

1) Shopping experience needs to be integrated with shoppers’ mobile phones
2) Let shopper do real-time product scanning with their mobile phones to access product information and ratings as required
3) Customer self-service where possible
4) Access to expert customer support and curated recommendations when required
5) Shopping experience needs to be integrated with social media
6) Personalized targeted offers
7) Self-checkout option unified with Loyalty Program and Point of Sale checkout technology

As a modern shopper, I believe Aran Hamilton did a good job of summarizing what you should expect, and even demand, from the stores that you shop at. There are many reasons that stores won’t work hard to provide the best experience, don’t let the fact that you’re not asking for the best be one of those reasons!

Let me know what you think. If you’re a shopper would you like to your shopping experience to include these types of interactions? If you’re a retailer, what do you think of the risks and rewards to create an integrated shopping experience for your shoppers?





Digital Shopping Experience – Coming Soon To A Store Near You: Part 1



I attended the Dx3 Canada (#Dx32014) conference in Toronto last week. The Dx3 conference brought agencies, brands, publishers and retailers together for two days of networking and education on current innovations of digital marketing in retail.

Wow! I saw great shopping innovations were everywhere I went at the conference. In the upcoming posts, I want like to share with you a sample of what you might find coming soon to a store near you. (Digital Shopping Experience Part 2)

In this post, I’ll talk about a concept store found in Seattle, called Hointer. The store concept is to move the focus away from the typical showroom theater to an interactive experience for trying on clothes (jeans as a first trial) in the fitting room.

Nadia Shouraboura, Hointer founder, gave a presentation at the conference describing how she hopes Hointer technology will remove many of the frustrations today’s shoppers have shopping for clothes. She explained that Hointer can remove the typical issues shoppers have when buying jeans, and let them focus on the experience of finding clothes they like and making it easy for them to purchase.

Shouraboura pointed out that removing a hovering salesperson from the experience may appeal to many men. As a personal preference, I can see how this idea is appealing to me. But if you’re a social shopper, don’t despair. Hointer’s experience also includes the ability for social sharing while you’re trying on your clothes. I’m pretty sure you’ll find the Hointer experience appealing for both genders!

The best way to communicate what I learned from Nadia Shouraboura is to let you see for yourself. Take a look at the following two videos.

You may not actually see a Hointer store opening at your local mall, because it intends to license it’s technology to other retailers rather than opening up a large chain itself. However, if Shouraboura is successful, you’ll find this experience in one of your regular clothing stores if they license the technology.

Let me know what you think. If you’re a shopper would you like this type of shopping experience? If you’re a retailer, what do you think of the risks and rewards to create an integrated shopping experience for your customers?