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Wake Up, Canada! (Part 1)

Posted June 11th, 2012 by Andrew Goodman

For those of you who weren’t fortunate enough to see it this morning: SES Toronto keynote speaker Avinash Kaushik laid into a host of Canadian companies for their unwillingness to execute the most basic of user experiences in their online commerce presences. Rogers, Canadian Tire, TD Bank, and numerous others were torched; in most cases, the outrage was justified.

(After this, he turned to a rich and detailed exploration of non-lame measurement practices to achieve success across multiple channels, pursuing multiple objectives… but with user loyalty and long-term revenues top of mind.)

One company that particularly gets Avinash’s goat is Canadian Tire. Apparently, Avinash doesn’t think it’s so great that you can’t buy anything from Canadian Tire online. Oh wait, you can buy tires now. Oh wait, when he goes through the laborious process of selecting the tire he wants, the checkout button won’t light up. That’s because he needs to “select store” first. Avinash’s throat fairly gurgled with rage and frustration as he attempted to describe the experience.

I know you’ve been here a couple dozen times at least, Avinash… but to wear out an appropriate phrase for the circumstances: welcome to Canada!

Canadian Tire is one of the companies I briefly mention in my piece for the SES Magazine, Toronto ed., titled Breaking Out of the +1 Mindset. (Sorry about the PDF – it’s pp. 6-8.) In this piece — not a technical exploration or a data conversation like Avinash’s — I rant a bit about Canada’s cultural barriers and corporate cultures that seem to block needed progress in e-commerce time and again. I also offer some ideas as to how anyone in our culture might need to think in order to become more entrepreneurial.

About Canadian Tire, I didn’t get a chance to mention another bit. A recent Globe and Mail obituary for a prominent member of one of the founding families of the company lauded him for being a pioneer in using data to optimize business operations back in the 1960′s.

My first reaction to that account is: it’s got to be overblown. US retail was always the global leader in retail logistics, business intelligence, and data-driven operations. Some Canadian companies were ahead of the curve on this, to be sure, but most other Canadian companies figured it out eventually. They were just part of a scene that was initiated more often, with gusto, by their US counterparts.

But what if the account of Canadian Tire as a data pioneer is true? Fifty years later, in a digital world, the e-commerce operation fiddles while Rome burns? Wouldn’t that be an insult to the pioneer?

Either way, it’s time to stop sucking.

2 Responses to “Wake Up, Canada! (Part 1)”

  1. It is always such a delight to read your review of the keynote Andrew, thank you!

    I absolutely adore Canada, and it is a little heartbreaking that even as Canada possesses a hyper-connected social digital audience that the overall state of digital is sub optimal. It seems to be a case of low expectations from the best companies.

    But I’m confident it will change. It has to! : )


  2. Avinash,

    We’re truly lucky to have your insights (and good humor) applied to the exercise of improving Canadian user experiences online, and the quest for more common-sense measurement in a complex environment.

    When giving these examples, you may be vaguely aware of this, but even more so than in the U.S., these top few companies are part of the fabric of everyday life. Not only does pretty much everyone have someone in their family that uses their products or services on a regular basis, oftentimes one’s parents, grandparents, co-workers, siblings, etc. have held jobs in these places. So the cultures seem quite ingrained sometimes.

    To quote the unspoken law of small towns everywhere: “That’s the way things are done here.”

    I am looking forward to applying some of the attribution visualization tools to some campaigns… though it looks like a pretty smart developer will be needed to implement!


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