Canada Falling Behind On Latest Retail Technology

By: Gary Parkinson on August 14, 2012

Globalization has made the entire world one big competition in all areas of business from productivity to service. In the retail industry, it is now a necessity to be the best service provider not only on the home front but internationally as well. Hours spent at work are increasing for Canadians across the board and time for shopping is becoming less available for the average citizen, not to mention times are still tough on the wallet. With online shopping continuing to grow to cope with this trend and malls becoming less populated, technology to help the shopping experience is becoming more important for brands and malls. Unfortunately Canada is playing catch up on this front and some of the biggest Canadian icons could lose out to international competitors who have kept up with the times; globalization has made it easy to battle it out in foreign markets and advancements by foreign companies have little barrier to entry in Canada.

According to a report by the BMO Financial Group Canadian retailers need to take advantage of these latest technological improvements to maintain an advantage over brands from the U.S., the U.K., Europe, and Australia who have already implemented these advancements. One of these latest services is a kiosk similar to airport scanners. They do a 10 second body scan using low-power radio waves making up to 200,000 measurements in a 360 degree radius numbers are then used as a personalized shopping guide for customers by providing a printout of the body measurements taken and comparing them to brands that cater to those specific shapes and sizes. These kiosks are already available in U.S. shopping malls and the brands using them want to expand to all their mall locations, including in Canada.

Another innovation is retailers offer software that uses a consumer’s home webcam to measure them in dark clothing standing in front of a light wall; they call it a “virtual fitting room”. These measurements can then be sent in by the consumer to a brand to show how they would look in that brand’s pieces of apparel. This benefit helps make the shopping experience for the consumer easier and also helps retailers with their costs. With information and actual fitting numbers sent in by consumers, retailers can use the measurements to manufacture clothing that fits specifically to these body types, lowering the amount of returns and reducing the amount of labour needed due to less product sent back. The report mentions that an estimated 20 percent of apparel bought online is returned due to wrong fitting.

As these technological improvements have been embraced by international brands and companies, Canadian retailers are being encouraged by BMO and others to get on board. They highlight the win-win scenario for shoppers and retailers as incentive for companies to make the investment in this technology and revolutionize the shopping experience.