What the future holds for Canadian businesses

6 min read
Doug Bonderud

The future of Canadian business has fundamentally changed.

It began with the rise of COVID-19 and gained steam with the Great Resignation. Now, continued supply chain concerns and ongoing global conflicts have Canadian business owners taking a hard look at current operations to:

  • Determine what works
  • Address what doesn’t
  • Take steps to foster the future of business

Related: How a boar farm made the pivot to selling online

Current challenges for Canadian business owners

The pandemic changed the way Canadians interact with brands, purchase goods, and decide which businesses are worth their loyalty.

It started with supply chain issues that led to full-scale retail closures, in turn forcing businesses to adapt or fail.

For many, this meant the sudden shift to online selling or buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) options that allowed them to stay afloat, even when traditional retail channels weren’t available.

covid shop sign alerting customers to pickup options

As noted by Canadian Business however, what began as an emergency response is now the preferred shopping method for many Canadians, even though in-person shopping restrictions have largely been lifted.

Businesses must now find ways to balance in-store and online shopping to meet customers where they are.

The Great Resignation is also affecting Canadian employers.

Recent survey data found that 65% of employees are now considering a job change to either boost their compensation or improve their work/life balance.

This creates a challenge for businesses:

As more consumers make the shift back to at least some in-person purchasing, more staff are needed to ensure great service. But businesses may have trouble finding top-performing employees if they can’t afford to meet evolving expectations around wage and work flexibility.

Another emerging challenge is the growing crisis in Ukraine. This conflict will likely have long-lasting impacts on the production of food-related products such as wheat and fertilizer, along with access to raw materials needed to address the continuing semiconductor shortage.

For Canadian businesses, this means finding ways to build diversified and stable supply chains that are both cost-effective and sustainable.

Related: 6 ways to use sustainable sourcing in any business

How the Canadian market is changing

From an import and export standpoint, Statistics Canada’s Monthly Update for March 2022 reveals that real gross domestic product (GDP) rose 1.3 % in Q3 2021 and 1.6 % in Q4. The report says “economic growth strengthens as exports and imports continue to recover.”

From the perspective of Canadian businesses on the front lines, however, challenges around recruitment and resources remain.

Employment fell by 200,000 in January 2022 and 52.4% of  businesses expect issues related to hiring and resource management to continue for at least six months.

In addition, just over one-third of businesses say they will likely raise prices over the next three months to combat inflation and the rising cost of supplies.

In practice, this creates a push-pull effect for businesses: While the economy at scale is recovering, significant obstacles remain on the front lines.

Consumers have changed too

Along with economic and resource realities, BDC.ca points to emerging consumer trends that will also impact the Canadian market.

  • First is the increased availability of online purchasing portals. The relatively low cost of launching an e-commerce site means that businesses must work to stand out from the crowd to capture consumer attention.
  • Next is the rise of the “experience economy,” which sees younger generations spending more to do things than own things. As a result, less tangible measurements such as the evaluation of businesses’ environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impact are becoming more important.
  • Finally, BDC highlights the growing impact of omnichannel operations that create a seamless experience across digital and physical channels to improve the customer experience.

Related: Small business secrets to competing with big box stores

Forward progress: What’s next for Canadian businesses?

So what does all this mean for Canadian companies? How can they address current challenges and capitalize on emerging trends to ensure they’re ready for the future of business?

Here, three components are critical:

1. Find your niche

First up? Find where your business (and your products) fit in the evolving Canadian business market.

As noted above, the low bar to entry into e-commerce means that big box stores largely control the middle ground of online purchasing, leaving room for smaller businesses at both the top and bottom ends.

In practice, this means you could opt for a luxury or value product approach that captures specific market segments.

It's also essential to stand out from the crowd with branding and marketing that does more than sell a product; instead, it needs to tell a story. This story might be about your brand, your people, or your product — just make sure it’s memorable for the right reasons.

Related: The sweet story behind Pinata Smash Cake

 2. Make use of data

More online and in-store transactions mean more data, and more data means better insight into customer buying patterns and preferences.

Person looking at Google Analytics on a laptop

But this is only possible if businesses take the time to identify and implement technologies capable of collecting and curating data from multiple sources, including emails, social media sites, review sites, and customer surveys. Taken together, this data can be used to create a complete picture of current buying habits and emerging trends.

Seem complicated? Thankfully, the cloud market has evolved to a point where there are a host of great software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions available for data analysis. Many are easy to install, simple to use, and won’t break the bank.

3. Work toward building an end-to-end experience

Finally, Canadian businesses need to create an end-to-end experience that meets consumers where they are and makes it easy for them to find what they want.

In practice, this means developing an omnichannel approach that connects common touchpoints including:

  • Telephone agents
  • Emails
  • Text messages
  • Social media site interactions

The goal here is to create a comprehensive customer profile and a seamless experience. Armed with this information (all obtained with permission), brands can build personalized marketing campaigns that:

  • Serve up targeted advertisements to customers via web or mobile portals
  • Offer limited-time deals directly to customers based on past purchase history
Two young women looking at something on a cellphone

Most importantly, however, an omnichannel approach allows businesses to interact with customers as people rather than sources of potential profit.

This means that when buyers connect with call center agents or reach out via email, they don’t have to re-introduce themselves and fully articulate their query or concern. Instead, they’re met with responses that show a preexisting knowledge of that particular customer’s preferences, purchases, and potential pain points.

Bottom line? The future of Canadian business is changing. Make sure you’re ready to meet the challenge.

Editor’s note: One thing is for sure: if you have a small business but no business website, you need one. Build it yourself — truly no tech skills needed! — or let the pros at GoDaddy build one for you.

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