Canadian consumer behaviours: How to get your business noticed

10 min read
Lou Clarke

If the Pandemic of 2020 has taught us business owners one thing it would be that consumer behaviours are not habitual.

When the worldwide crisis happened, people changed their habits and decisions to match their new reality.

While the Canadian Government shut down the country from March 15th to the end of May 2020, consumers had no choice but to either wait for stores to re-open or move their buying power online. The latter meant that they could make their purchases from businesses across the country and beyond.

As we all know, the majority of Canadians chose online purchasing (eCommerce) as their go-to method. In fact, online sales increased 99.3% in April 2020 over February 2020.

What do changing consumer behaviours mean for Canadian businesses?

As of this writing, we do not have the statistics to show March 2021 vs March 2020. However, if we look at the overall trend, online sales saw an increase of 110.8% in May 2020 to May 2019.

That trend is now sticking, as more Canadians choose eCommerce over in-person purchasing today. These new consumer behaviours tell us that the structure of purchasing in the retail trade industry may be permanently changed.

Person pointing to laptop screen with credit card in hand
Many think the buying behaviours brought about by the pandemic may be permanent.

Simply put, if your business does not sell its products or services online, then you are missing a large piece of this consumer pie. The same goes for businesses who do have an eCommerce website, but don’t promote it to their current and potential customers.

Businesses in 2021 can no longer wait for the customer to come to them. Instead, the business needs to go to where the customer is — and that is online.

What do you need to do to get your piece of the eCommerce pie?

With the growth of easy do-it-yourself online store builders, all types of businesses and business sectors can now sell online.

The place to start is with a strategic business plan that is based on new consumer behaviours.

We need to relearn how our consumers think, feel and act. But most of all, we need to understand how they are spending their money.

Building this strategy means:

  • Doing the research
  • Asking a lot of questions
  • Trying new promotions
  • Creating new ways of connecting with customers
  • Updating websites that provide simplicity for purchasing

This kind of information takes awhile to study, so make sure you give your business the necessary time and resources to build on these answers.

Related: How to do your own market research — a DIY guide

How have consumer behaviours changed?

Changing consumer behaviours offer businesses opportunities to improve their practices for the better. You must evolve and grow with the customer’s needs, so you can continue to provide the services people want and need.

Below, we’ll review the top ways consumer behaviours have changed during the pandemic.

More people working from home

With more people working from home, many no longer have the ability to make a quick stop on the way home from work. More people are running errands once a week and bulk buying products to prevent additional trips to the store. They are already home, the last thing they want to do is leave the house for a quick stop.

Woman sitting on bed while working on laptop
Another trend that may be here to stay? Curbside grocery shopping.

Statistics from PWC Canada show that 49% of people who work from home are more likely to have memberships to online shopping platforms, like Amazon. This is compared to only 30% of those who work outside of the home and have the same membership.

Additionally, 49% of people who worked from home turned to eCommerce for their 2020 holiday shopping. This is compared to 37% of those who worked outside of the home. These consumer behaviours suggest that online businesses can continue to thrive under unique circumstances.

Generation matters

When it comes to paying for delivery, there are key consumer behaviours to note between age demographics. PWC Canada shows that 68% of Gen Z shoppers expect a 24-hour delivery on items such as groceries. This is compared to 35% in the Baby Boomer generation.

As a result, 42% of Gen Z shoppers are more receptive to online buying experiences and automated checkout services — including in-person self checkouts.

To compare, only 27% of Baby Boomers are comfortable with these same options.

It’s more likely that Gen Z consumers want more than one experience and additional services when visiting a retailer. For example, many grocery stores have added a cafe or coffee shop area in their stores to build on the customer experience.

Simplicity matters

Because of the pandemic, the average consumer is consumed with:

  • Personal issues
  • Stress
  • Life struggles

This means they are no longer wanting to spend time figuring out what they need and how to get it.

New consumer behaviours show that the quickest and simplest way wins.

Amazon leads the way in convenience shopping by offering the ability to purchase items with just one click. Small businesses in Canada can learn a lot from this method. They have the potential to increase online sales by making it easier for the customer to check out.

Editor’s note: Online Store from GoDaddy increases the number of people who make it through to check out by minimizing the number of steps it takes to buy from you. Try it for free!

People are looking for solutions for their problems

Consumers are more likely to buy from a business that has a product or service that offers a solution to their problem.

Since the pandemic, the consumer is even more apt to purchase from a business that is solving a problem for them by simply providing solutions in written format on their websites and social media.

Take GoDaddy, for example. They are a company that sells domain names, hosting and easy website builders, but they also provide a blog full of information to help business owners learn new things. Here’s a great example of them showing small business owners how to pivot and even thrive after the pandemic.

6 tips to building a strategy based on the new consumer behaviours

After researching these new consumer behaviours, you’ll need a strategy to realign your approach. Here are a few things you can consider adding to your new strategy.

1. Re-introduce yourself to your consumers

If you have yet to do so, now is the time to rebuild your relationships with your past and current customers. Make sure you understand:

  • Where they are in life
  • What their new behaviours look like
  • How you can help them create a happier life through products/services

Take the time to research consumer behaviours with a simple survey you create yourself. Your customer is going to help you win the long game, so make sure you establish that trust. This is also known as creating your avatar for your business.

2. Get a .ca domain

Speaking of trust, .ca is a country-specific domain that can increase the trust customers have for your company. Many Canadian customers identify websites bearing the .ca domain as a domestic (shop local) site. It gives them added incentive to purchase from a Canadian business.

Closeup of a woman holding a Candian flag decal

To receive the .ca domain, a business MUST be registered in Canada. You can easily purchase your .ca domain through GoDaddy and still host your website on a .com url. Your .ca domain will simply point to your .com  domain (here’s how to do that).

3. Add an online shopping option

Platforms like WordPress/WooCommerce and GoDaddy’s Online Store are the best options to create a fun and safe place for customers to shop online. They also add a trust factor for your customers.

If your online store is too hard to use, the buyer will leave and shop elsewhere.

Avoid missing potential sales opportunities by studying consumer behaviours on your website. Track analytics (like pages where shoppers spend the most time and bounce rates) to see where your site can improve.

4. Simplify what you do

The 2021 consumer does not want to spend their time trying to figure things out. They want quick and easy-to-use products, services and resources. Learn how to weave simplicity throughout your business by:

  • Updating your website regularly: Ensure your visitors can actively interact with your website and purchase what they need quickly (think 1-click purchasing). An often-updated websites earns extra points from Google as well.
  • Keeping it mobile-first: Make your site easy to navigate on desktop and mobile, so that consumers can make quicker decisions on their purchases.
  • Finding ways to simplify or automate your business workflow: This could include a chat bot, online sales and automated email replies. Doing this helps you focus on growing your business -- instead of spending time on tasks that don’t make you money.

Even as governments give the okay to ‘go back to normal,’ it will be the general public that dictates what and when things happen. We need to understand that online business is here to stay — keeping it simple is the best chance at winning.

5. Advertise and promote your business

Invest in advertising to boost your online presence. Be specific, direct and simple in your promotions to keep up with new consumer behaviours.

During the pandemic, ads have been a welcoming change to the news of the world.

Big brands are taking note and changing their advertising methods to be more entertaining. Find ways you can advertise and promote your business in a fun and uplifting way. This will get more eyes on your promotions.

Examples include:

  • Using bright colours, text and quotes that drive conversation on your social media posts.
  • Showing how your business supports local food banks, essential workers, and people in need.
  • Highlighting the personal stories that make your business what it is.

Consider the social media platforms you are promoting on. The social media map is changing and consumption is changing, too. People are flocking to websites in different ways, so you’ll want to learn where your consumers are spending most of their time online. Then, advertise there to maximize your return on Investment (ROI).

If you’re already paying for advertising on a platform and seeing no results, it’s probably time to either change your advertisements (see above) or try a new platform.

Editor’s Note: GoDaddy Online Store makes it easy to promote your store on Facebook, Instagram and Google My Business — all from one central dashboard. There’s even an email tool that allows you to automate your messages.

6. Start your recovery strategy now

If your business is trying to recover or wait for the pandemic to be over, you’re wasting time.

The famous life coach, Tony Robbins, once said, “When would NOW be a good time to start?”

In order to succeed, you need to continue to grow so that you can service your current and future consumers. If your business has yet to become an eCommerce business, think about it and start building what you can.

Buying behaviours will continue to evolve

Starting anything is the hardest part. Take it from me, I know because our business has done everything I have mentioned above. We’ve made a massive online pivot without having all the knowledge and education needed to do so. But we did it because we had to survive.

Remember, your business will always be a work in process. Continue to study new consumer behaviours to direct your business to be the success it is meant to be.

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