July 25, 2012, 11:53 AM — Meet Alexia. She's a 16-year-old girl-next-door type who lives in the suburbs. She's "close to her parents, does well in school and gets a weekly allowance. She likes casual clothes with a sexy fit, and tends to dress like her friends for acceptance and reassurance. She aspires to be an adult, but is sometimes childlike. Outgoing and well-connected to her friends, she has started discovering new things and wants more of them -namely travel, cars and boys. And to do that, she often feels she needs to look the part.
Alexia is the fictional but representative example of the target customer Michel Joncas and his colleagues keep in mind as they develop the technology that powers the Garage chain of stores that operate in shopping malls across the country. On
the other end of the spectrum is Rachel, a single 28-year-old who rents a small loft, is confident, witty and likes to have fun. A Rachel is more likely to shop at Dynamite, the other brand of stores the company owns and operates primarily in Quebec.
It's not unusual for major retailers to create personas of the most likely people to come to their stores, but traditionally that kind of information would have primarily been useful to the marketing and sales departments. Joncas, however, used Alexia and Rachel as the building blocks for an IT strategy that begins with internal hardware and applications to increase efficiencies along with external customer-facing social media tools that nurture relationships with both new and loyal customers. As the vice-president of IT at Groupe Dynamite in Montreal, his efforts may be indicative of major changes affecting the retail industry -changes that will largely depend on a skillful blend of both consumer and enterprise technologies.
Joncas was the keynote speaker at an event hosted by IDC and the Retail Council of Canada in Toronto in April that focused on the "omnichannel" customer.
In other words, customers that may use a retailer's Web site, its Facebook page, the actual store, a 1-800 number or a combination of channels to engage with the company. While many U.S. chains have already been rolling out customerfacing apps and revamping internal IT infrastructure to create greater throughput and efficiencies, the picture here is far less bright. According to a survey of approximately 150 retailers IDC conducted earlier this year, only 14 per cent of Canadian retailers fall into the camp that has successfully transformed store experiences through mobile technology. The majority, 35 per cent, admitted they are essentially "non-mobile" so far, with only potential plans for pilot projects.