Inside Insights: Susan Williams

Next up in our Inside Insights interview series brought to
you by Consumer Insights Canada,we sat
down with Consumer Insights Canada speaker Susan Williams, Senior Director,
Strategic Insight, The Cadillac Fairview Corporation Limited, to discuss strategic insights and Canada’s consumer culture.
Consumer Insights Canada is a conference focusing
on the power of insights to inspire smarter decision making and shines a lens
on shopper and consumer behavior in Canada. Whether you’re looking to break
into the market for the first time, or just deepen your relationship with
Canadian consumers ‘ this is your must-attend event. 
Here’s what Williams had to say:
IIR: What makes
insights ‘strategic insights’?
Williams: Strategic
insight implies it impacts business thinking and decision making in my opinion.
We can get a lot of insight from data, but turning that into actionable results
is the strategic part.
IIR: What is the
key to using the power of consumer insights to make smarter decisions in
Williams: I can’t
think of any business where the client/consumer/guest is not a critical part of
a business success. Ensuring you are relevant, in tune, and in touch with your
consumer through quality consumer insights is key. 
IIR: How are
shopper insights unique in Canada compared to the rest of North America?
Williams: The act
of gathering consumer insights is not unique, but there are a lot of similarities,
but many differences as well in the results. It is important to understand the
geographies and influences that impact behavior in different markets. Geography
can sometimes limit accessibility to certain types of services or products. We
see differences in attitudes towards technology even across the country in
Canada, and compared to the US there are additional differences. In some of the
work we have done we have seen a greater emphasis on value as well in Canada
vs. the US. It is important to note as well, the makeup of the Canadian
consumer is different in some ways multiculturally than the US consumer -
especially in terms of ethnicity. All of this stresses the importance of
ensuring relevancy in any market that you go into.
IIR: Where do you
see the shopper culture in Canada 5 years from now?
Williams: Technology
is and will continue to shape how people shop. Accessibility, transparency,
access to information and how this translates into relevant shopper experiences
of the future. Ecommerce is a way of life, although not as developed as in the
US and other countries, online browsing/accessing information and pre-shopping
will continue to grow in Canada.
IIR: What’s your
advice on effective ways to reach Canadians on the path-to-purchase?
Williams: Understand
their consumer journey and purchasing influences relevant to your category or
product. Clearly ensuring a seamless omnichannel experience will be important
as ensuring that the right type of communication and information is conveyed at
the right time. Just because some technology exists, it doesn’t mean that it is
always relevant to your shopper. Get and know your shopper.
IIR: What’s the
best part about shopping in Canada?
Williams: Increasing
selection and choice in retail. World class brands are now entering the scene
providing one of the most exciting times in consumer choice and shopping in
history. Our geographies as well provide significant cultural experiences from
one part to the other.
IIR: How is
technology empowering the always-on shopper today?
Williams: Pre-shopping
is big and continues to grow. Social media, technology in general is everywhere
and mobile phones are the shopping vehicle of the future. Everything is now,
information is accessible, and the shopper is in control.
IIR: How do you
embed a culture of customer experience in your organization?
Williams: This is
a key foundational platform for our organization currently. The value
proposition is about the experience as in many cases the product can be
replicated. It is lead from the top, and needs to form a part of the corporate
strategy. We are all in a learning stage. Ensuring that consumer insight is a
key component of this journey is critical.
IIR: What is the
future of Big Data?
Williams: Big
Data always existed, but it has now been reinvented with the introduction and
mass of digital behavior statistics. This will continue to grow and become more
and more relevant but faces many challenges. If companies haven’t figured what
to do with “small data” how will “big data” solve their
problems. What still remains to be a critical component of any data digging
exercise is to ensure that there are people that know what to do with that
data, and develop the right questions to lead the analysis . It is also
important to make sure that in a lot of cases, big data is very powerful and
creates stories and impacts of initiatives, but doesn’t always tell you why?
Still important to keep the dialogue going with shoppers to marry the behavioral
data with consumer insights. 
IIR: How do you
see mobile affecting the future shopper in Canada?
Williams: Mobile
is the future. Eventually, mobile payments will be the norm. It already is
growing at a rapid rate. It means that information has to be faster, relevant
and connected to technology. People are now shopping ‘in the moment” and
mobile is enabling that.
IIR: What have
you learned about millennial shopper insights in Canada?
Williams: It is
important to make sure that we don’t just create a broad brush and group people
into large categories. However, some key influences of this generation are that
millennials grew up on technology. It means it is already part of their behavior
and they will continue to expect this in everything you do. They may be seen as
fewer brands loyal, and because technology enables it, expecting rate of change
of products, brands, services to evolve quicker.
IIR: Why is it so
important these days to connect with customers in virtually every channel of
this multichannel world?
Williams: It is
the omnichannel experiences. Shoppers expect it, and they chose how to
communicate with you. Understand however which channels are most relevant for
your shopper and your product and ensure your messaging is tailored within. It
doesn’t mean eliminating channels however, just understanding the role that
they play within your brand.
If you’d like to hear
more from Susan, don’t miss her session, ‘Leveraging
Big Data for Mall Merchandising Mix Decisions’
at Consumer Insights Canada
on Monday, Sept 29th from 1:30-3:00 pm. The event is taking place this
September 29-October 1, 2014 in Toronto, Canada.

For more information
about the event and to register, click here: