Canadian Tire Joins Digital Incubator to Improve Retail and Online Offering
March 21, 2013 | Russ Martin | Comments
Canadian Tire is moving a team of five employees into Communitech, a digital incubator in Waterloo, Ont., to experiment with new digital products and experiences for both its online properties and retail locations.
One of the team’s first initiatives will be fine-tuning Canadian Tire’s new “digital hub,” a platform launching in April that will combine a social feed, online catalogue and user-generated content to better promote and position its products.
Canadian Tire is joining Google and BlackBerry at Communitech. Funded partially by the Ontario government, Communitech provides financial support and consultancy to nearly 1,000 companies, including many startups, and provides office space for about 90 companies in Waterloo.
All those companies are potential partners for Canadian Tire as it looks to deepen its digital investment. “There’s no better place to be able to go for lunch or walk over to the coffee pot and meet a startup that is doing something that might be able to help us,” said Craig Haney, manager of Canadian Tire innovations and one of the Waterloo team members.
Haney said the new team will focus on experimentation, especially with digital products that could enhance Canadian Tire’s brick-and-mortar experience, such as digital kiosks, mobile payments, apps and other products that provide product information and let consumers place orders.
“Digital is becoming a part of everyone’s shopping experience. Historically, that’s been used as an online experience, but there is no reason why we can’t incorporate that digital experience within the brick-and-mortar environment,” Haney said.
(In January, another retailer owned by Canadian Tire, Sport Chek, opened a concept store in Toronto with more than 140 digital screens to experiment with a mixed digital and retail experience.)
“I don’t think anyone is saying brick-and-mortar is going away, but I think it’s changing and becoming an opportunity to showcase and create an experience for the purchasers that’s not necessarily designed around just buying products, but experiencing products and experiencing the retail environment.”
Large brands such as Canadian Tire have traditionally looked to consultancy firms or agencies for digital guidance, but by physically putting a technology team in Waterloo, Haney said it has instead created an internal resource for the marketing team to turn to when making decisions about the digital products it needs, who to partner with and how to build as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Eugene Roman is the driving force behind the Communitech move. Roman joined Canadian Tire last year as chief technology officer, and previously worked at Open Text, a software giant that also has a presence at Communitech.