Seven in 10 Canadians surveyed say they’ll still shop online for popular items post-pandemic

InnovationDigital WalletTechnology

CFO Jeff Chiasson is seen in front of a SoftMoc location in Pickering, Ontario.

In a year that’s been marked by doubt over what the future holds, one thing is undeniably certain Canada’s online shopping shift. 

While that shift has certainly been fuelled and accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent survey from PayPal Canada shows the digital economy will continue to boom long after lockdown restrictions are lifted. 

The ‘Trends & Spends’ survey found one in two respondents will still go online to buy furniture, groceries and home renovation items once the pandemic ends. Furthermore, seven in 10 surveyed said they still expect to shop online for clothing, shoes, accessories, entertainment, toys and games.  

“You can’t beat convenience,” said Mike Monty, PayPal Canada’s head of enterprise sales. “Will people be excited to go back into stores and shop in person? Absolutely. But will they also lie in bed at night and check online to see if the shirt they were looking for is in stock on the website? Without a doubt. 

“We are entering a new phase now where shopping online is not an alternative for consumers, but an extension and enhancement of their in-store experience,” said Monty.  

Digital strategy should complement business plan 

Jeffrey Chiasson, Chief Financial Officer at Canadian retailer SoftMoc, said having a digital commerce strategy to complement their brick-and-mortar plans has not only given them an edge this past year, it has proven to be a critical part of their success over the last decade and an integral part of their plans for the future. 

SoftMoc PayPal
PayPal is a payment option on the SoftMoc website.

SoftMoc was one of the first Canadian retailers to sell shoes online, introducing a shopping cart on their website back in 1996.  

“The company’s founder has always been passionate about technology, and he wanted to learn about the technology in order to give his business the one up on the competition,” Chiasson said. “He figured being online was a way to spread his reach far beyond where his store was, and it was a way to make money even when he wasn’t manning the store.” 

By the time Chiasson joined the company in 2009, SoftMoc’s ecommerce strategy was well established along with their brand, which was strengthened with 126 stores across the country and a handful of shops in the U.S.  

The company’s ecommerce experience goes beyond a simple click-and-ship strategy, said Chiasson.

“If you don’t see something at the store, order it online. If you’re not happy with what you ordered online, bring it back to our store. We happily offer a refund and if you come in, then we have another shot at a perfect, pre-qualified customer,” Chiasson said.  

“Our online sales have grown by leaps and bounds. We are not at any point looking to abandon our brick-and-mortar locations. In fact, having actual stores gives us credibility because consumers recognize our brand from the mall.”  

Fraud, secure transactions a concern: survey  

While PayPal’s ‘Trends & Spends’ study found 94 per cent of Canadians surveyed shop online, it also found that there are aspects of online shopping that consumers struggle with.  

Shipping costs (53 per cent) and delivery times (51 per cent) were considered top barriers to online shopping for more than half of respondents, but Monty said retailers have an opportunity to adopt some of the innovative ways they did business during the pandemic to help solve for this issue.  

“It’s a no-brainer. Curbside pick-up was wildly popular during the pandemic and it should continue to be an option,” he said. “In a world where consumers have access to online marketplaces that offer free one-day shipping, retailers can only benefit from giving their customers the flexibility and options they are asking for.”  

Another barrier noted in the survey was the concern over fraud and keeping financial information secure (17 per cent). According to a 2021 survey titled, “The Real Cost of Online Fraud” which was commissioned by PayPal and conducted by the Ponemon Institute, 45 percent of respondents rated their effectiveness as high or very high, prior to COVID-19. Today, only 34 percent of respondents rate their effectiveness as high or very high.

Chiasson said he noticed a significant increase in online fraud in 2021. 

“The pandemic meant more people were at home, more people were shopping online and fraud followed. But for everything that went through PayPal, whenever there was an issue, for the large part, it was resolved.  

“PayPal is the intermediary providing a level of trust for the consumer and a level of trust for us. It gives us a chance to verify an address through a trusted third party. That address check mitigates a bunch of fraud on our side. Now our chargeback rate is so low, it’s negligible.” 

SoftMoc started using PayPal in 2009, at first to give consumers a reason to trust transacting with them.  

“When ecommerce first started to pick up, there were a lot of people who were wary about putting their credit card information online,” Chiasson said. “When we added PayPal, there was an instant surge and increase in online business. It meant they weren’t giving us their credit card information, they were giving it to PayPal, a company that is known worldwide for being a safe and secure way to transact. It was an instant difference.” 

Monty said PayPal’s focus on enterprise solutions, particularly around fraud detection and its ability to seamlessly integrate multiple payment systems has helped give businesses an edge in a competitive global market.  

“The biggest misconception about PayPal is that we begin and end at checkout,” he said. “Yes, we do provide a great front-end experience for customers, but we also provide the industry’s most intelligent and agile optimization engine on the back-end. For retailers, it’s simple. It means frictionless payment processing with sophisticated fraud and compliance technology that helps identify and manage risk.”  

For consumers, it all comes down to a having a seamless experience, from online to in-store shopping, said Chiasson.  

“If buying is a pain, it will never happen. It becomes the real win-win.” 

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