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If Retailers Get Apps Right, Shopping May Never Be The Same

12/09/2016 11:56 EST | Updated 12/09/2016 11:57 EST
Daniel Allan via Getty Images
Women's hands holding smart phone shopping.

Love it or hate it, you are probably spending a lot of time and effort on shopping this time of year. From gifts to holiday party outfits, many of us think it's a hassle and want shortcuts to get it done as soon as possible. In fact, gift buying was cited by one in ten Canadian parents as a top time sucker in a recent Mastercard survey. The survey showed most of us are looking for "life hacks" to get back some of our precious time. Even those of us who consider shopping more of a treat than a pain are still looking for ways to make it a better experience.

The way Canadians shop is definitely shifting. The United States used to be miles ahead when it comes to eCommerce but we're catching up, with Forrester predicting that online transactions will reach 9.5% of total retail transactions in Canada by 2019.

Where our online activity is happening is evolving too. Canadians are spending more time online on their phones and tablets than on their computers, according to comScore. Mobile has become the new interaction point for retailers, which means that phone in your hand is an incredible (and not fully tapped) tool to enhance the shopping experience. Mobile is often the channel that makes or breaks our decision to buy online (and even our decision to set foot in a physical store).

That's why those of us who watch shopping trends have our eyes on mobile apps - specifically those that allow the consumer to complete the entire journey - research to purchase - easily and without leaving the app. The chain gets broken when you have to navigate away or switch to a computer.

Apps actually have the power to cross over and make the in-store shopping experience better too. Think of a time when the fit of a clothing item was perfect but the colour was wrong. Store staff probably offered to hold it at another location, prompting you to either venture across the city, buy a colour you didn't love, or simply give up. Why are we still doing this in 2016? Now imagine you had the ability to use the retailer's app to scan the item, select the colour you want, pay for it, and have it delivered to your home. Done right, apps can fulfill the promise of bridging the gap between online and brick and mortar.

The lines of digital and physical retail are starting to blur in Canada, but for a real glimpse of what's next, we need to look south of the border. Men's fashion retailer Bonobos only carries items in-store so you can find the right fit and place an order to be delivered to your home. Rebecca Minkoff is doing fascinating things with their "connected store" in New York City. Shoppers can browse through a giant touchscreen/mirror where you send items you like to a fitting room. Once in the fitting room, another mirror/touchscreen lets you request more sizes and even purchase items directly.

On a more everyday scale, we have great examples of apps creating conveniences in Canada. Take a look at Pizza Pizza's new app (while it's not couture it's certainly a Canadian favorite). To order a pizza online is actually a pretty complicated purchase when you think about it. You customize the order in as many ways as you like and the closest location is deployed to get your pizza to you, or to have it ready when you stop by. But the app makes it simple, and the fact that they've integrated Masterpass means you can tap to purchase without having to enter payment or delivery information, making it even quicker and smoother. Once a retailer creates a great app experience, the actual payment transaction can make it clunky, which is why we designed Masterpass to make the payment seamless.

There's a demand here to shake up the retail experience - whether we're shopping for holiday gifts or just ordering dinner - and Canadian merchants who embrace apps will lead the way.

Jason Davies is responsible for developing the technology platforms changing the way that Canadians pay in-store and online. At MasterCard, Jason is responsible for developing emerging payment products and strategies to show leadership in payment solution convergence.

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