Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Online business in Quebec: culturally and financially distinct

Despite growth in online ecommerce and retail activity, it is not clear that Quebec businesses are moving to take advantage of the trend. Quebec-based businesses risk losing their traditional customer relationships to foreign players in the online world.

With the percentage of Quebecers' online increasing (71.5 % in November 2006 and 72.3% in June 2007 CEFRIO) ecommerce activity is on the rise as well. In November, 16 % of adult Quebecers spent 401 millions on products and services bought on the Internet. And we know Canadians buying online increased 34 % to 45 % between 2004-06. However, since the CEFRIO "Indice du Commerce Electronique" doesn't state which percentage of this spending is done in Quebec vs the rest of Canada or abroad, it is not clear that this growth is translating into increased revenue for Quebec-based retailers.

The past year have highlighted the efforts of US Giants such as eBay and Amazon in the French language capabilities and optimization of their websites targeting the Quebec market. It is expected that the increased Quebec market traction resulting from these efforts will continue to grow in 2008.

The truth is that Quebec retailing has traditionally been able to rely on our unique culture and language as a barrier against foreign competitors who would have tried to enter the Quebec market. That advantage is not as important online and Quebec retailers need to start acting now to protect their status of preference among Quebecers or risk losing it to competitors from not only out of province, but out of country.

The web presents a double edged sword to retailers in any market as it both increases the potential business opportunity as well as the scope of competitors that business is likely to face. The need to strategically address a retail web presence with clear cut commitment to web analytics and the use of that data to adapt the online offering is a key principle for success online.

"There are proven methodologies and simple and straightforward steps that retailers can take to protect and grow their market share in both online and offline transactions," says Jim Sterne, founder of the Web Analytics Association and Chairman of the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit (coming up in Toronto, March 31st-April 2nd). "The growth of web commerce is clearly both a threat and an opportunity to Quebec retailers. Active use of strategic web analytics tools can help Quebec retailers to level the playing field and help them successfully navigate the changes that will be thrust upon them today and in the coming months."

To address the threats and opportunities facing Quebec Retailers, the Web Analytics Association will be holding a one day breakfast seminar at the Delta Montreal, on Wednesday, February 6, 2008, 7:30am - 10am. The forum will allow attendees to share and discuss the challenges at hand, and what steps can be taken to improve the state of their online presence.

(Note: content of this post re-edited from "Language and culture may not be enough to protect Quebec retails in the online world")