IAB Canada eCommerce Week Coverage

IAB Canada eCommerce Week Coverage

Written by IAB Canada Community Contributor: Melody Lin
September 28, 2020

Day 1 – eCommerce in Canada

As holiday shopping season nears, the impact from this year’s pandemic crisis has been profound on eCommerce as both marketers and consumers.

Over IAB Canada’s three-day virtual seminar series, everything from the global shift of eCommerce and its effect on digital marketing, to actionable insights that can be incorporated into planning and executing eCommerce-driven campaigns will be covered by industry experts.


Kicking off the week with Dominic Laforest, Integrated Account Manager at Corus Entertainment, as Master of Ceremonies, we welcomed Sonia Carreno, President of IAB Canada, to set the stage and define eCommerce in Canada.




  1. buying and selling of goods (or services) on the internet.
  • According to eMarketer, eCommerce will account for 8.7% of all retail in Canada in 2020, up over 20% from 2019.
  • Significantly lower barriers to entry, on-demand access to supply chains and improved user experience all contribute to this accelerated growth.
  • IAB Canada’s recent COVID-19 impact reporting indicates that eCommerce-enabled brands were less affected by recent spending cuts than non-eComm brands.
  • According to IAB Canada’s September 2020 Barometer Report on eCommerce & Performance Media from the perspective of agency members, over 70% indicate a moderate to significant increase in eComm-driven campaigns over the past three years.
  • Direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands have been disrupting legacy business models, and are fueling the future of advertising.


The COVID-19 pandemic has been a powerful accelerator of e-commerce in Canada. More Canadians are making more purchases online and much of the change will be permanent. Philip Scrutton, VP of Shopper Insights at BrandSpark International, presented key findings in the company’s recent eCommerce Shopper Study.

“In the first months of the pandemic, eCommerce experienced growth that would have taken years.”

  • We were online shoppers already, with 7 in 10 Canadians shopping online each month, but what changed is how often and in how many categories Canadians made online purchases.
  • Over 4.5 million Canadian households bought groceries online from March to June 2020, and eCommerce penetration increased greater than 50% in most product categories.
  • Nearly half of shoppers (48%) prefer home delivery over click-and-collect (pick-up at stores), reflecting that convenience is a key driver for eCommerce.
  • The majority of shoppers expect to stay cautious about in-person store visits until the end of summer and beyond, with 28% looking all the way into 2021.
  • Online shoppers are information seekers, with 81% of shoppers say that checking reviews is an important part of online shopping.
  • Change is here to stay: 8 in 10 shoppers say that they will continue to shop online “more often” than they did pre-COVID.


From client-side to agency-side, retail and eCommerce industry veterans Michael LeBlanc, Founder & President of M.E. LeBlanc & Company Inc, and Ted Starkman, Co-Founder of Stream Commerce, gave us an insider look at the current state of retail eCommerce in Canada.

  • In 2018, the retail industry in Canada generated $376.9 Billion in core retail sales.
  • The 2020 retail year started off with core retail up 2.3% in February, but March hit like a shockwave, with many retailers experiencing shutdowns.
  • Billions of dollars of discretionary spending is shifting due to COVID-19. Winners of this sudden shift include home (DIY, gardening, furniture etc.), outdoor economy, pets and groceries.
  • The wave of millions of Canadians working from home created massive changes in the retail environment for what and how we buy, such as less trips to stores, bigger baskets per transaction, and a great acceleration of eCommerce.
  • The pandemic has advanced eCommerce approximately five years into the future, with online retailers reporting double (or even triple) digit increases in traffic and conversion.

Tune in to The Voice of Retail podcast for more expert insight: https://www.retailcouncil.org/the-voice-of-retail-podcast/


Shauna Houlton, Director of Consumer Insights of Corus Entertainment, wrapped up day one of eCommerce Week with insight from Corus’ six-wave consumer mindset study, with the goal of informing and supporting brand communications during and after the crisis.

“Consumers have used this time to engage with eCommerce differently.”

As Canada opens up, we need to remember:

  • The COVID crisis forced Canadian consumers to act in new ways. For those who gained, there’s work to do in order to sustain it. For those who have struggled, there’s an opportunity to regain consumers.
  • With 50% of sales coming from new and light consumers, failure to reach those consumers leaves dollars on the table for competitors.
  • Brand size and share is the number one factor in driving advertising profitability. Build your brand to grow performance metrics and position yourself to drive price.
  • Throughout the crisis, Canadians have been very open to all types of commercial messages.

What an educational first day! In the words of our MC, Dominic Laforest, “These insight laden presentations truly represent the best of IAB Canada and our industry. Sharing these learnings of the world and solving that marketing puzzle gets us all out of bed and excited in the morning.”

A big thank-you to our moderators, speakers, sponsors and attendees for joining us online. Check out the highlights from the rest of eCommerce Week: (link to articles)

Day 2 – eCommerce Enablers: Data, Tech & Loyalty


“Things won’t change as much as they will accelerate. While other crises reshaped the future, COVID-19 is just making the future happen faster.” – Scott Galloway

On day two of eCommerce week, we dove into the data and technology that empower, enable and drive eCommerce. With speakers from Google Canada and Well.ca to Home Depot and Contobox, let’s jump in to what these industry experts had to say.


Our moderator Haem Roy, President of BCMA Canada, first introduced John Fanous, the Head of eCommerce Retail at Google Canada.

eCommerce experienced 10 years of growth in the space of months. In response, John identified IP data, core performance, online to offline, building brands and community, and user experience as the critical levers of eCommerce in 2020 (and beyond). If you’re wondering, “So what do I do now?”, here is his insight:

  • Now: Leverage your existing 1P data assets on current programs (i.e. email subscriber lists, recent shoppers, eReceipt data).
  • Near: Launch data-driven creative in mid-funnel channels (i.e. local inventory availability, shipping turnarounds, geo-specific deals).
  • Next: Go data mining within your organization for customer information you can build around (i.e. loyalty programs, incentives to customer sign-ins).


When it comes to holiday shopping, are we ever done planning? This year, the only thing we know for certain is that we don’t know what to expect.

Moderated by John Fanous, the panel took a look at how COVID-19 has changed the planning cycle with four eCommerce specialists: Seif Khemaissia, Group Director of Programmatic & Analytics at INNOCEAN Worldwide Canada, Stephan Lukac, Senior Marketing Manager at Best Buy, Bryan Kingston, Manager of North America Integrated Media at Hasbro, and Daniel Mew, Advertising Manager at Article.

Here are the highlights from the conversation:

  • With many things still up in the air with this year’s holiday season, work with suppliers and partners to make sure that everything is flexible in order to shift and pivot according to consumer behaviour.
  • To prepare for the uncertain future, be agile. Rather than modelling month-to-month, model weekly or even daily. Learning to be more real-time with reporting and preparing for the unpredictable, view each dataset as a different lens that helps make the future less fuzzy.
  • Maximize tech platforms to leverage historical data to help forecast the future.
  • With the pandemic serving as an accelerant, prepare your media accordingly so you can react to the latest updates as needed.
  • According to our panelists, leading indicators that spur the evolution of marketing plans include: consumer habits, shift to omni channels, and day-in/day-out “what’s happening” with COVID-19.


Many say that loyalty is rare nowadays, but these panelists are here to prove us wrong! Moderated by Sonia Carreno, President at IAB Canada, our second panel of the day was comprised of three loyalty program experts: Jennifer La Forge, General Manager at Rakuten, Brock Knoll, Manager of Digital Marketing Delivery at AirMiles, and Chris Ovsenny, Director of Media Demand Generation at Points.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • An effective loyalty program is well thought out and connects emotionally with members. It’s no longer a “one size fits all” solution!
  • Ask yourself: “What’s that one north star that your loyal program will help you with?” This could be increasing cart size or driving product sales, just make sure that it’s effective on the bottom line.
  • EXAMPLE: TOMS has generated $2 million with its COVID-19 Giving Fund.
  • Value back to the customer is just as – if not more – important as the value back to your business.
  • For consumers, having the wrong offers stick out is worse than having a good offer presented. It’s all about the seamless integration – aim to be as small part of the transaction funnel as possible to give users the best online experience.

Two down, one more to go! Check out the highlights from the rest of eCommerce Week: (link to articles) Thank you to our moderators, speakers, sponsors and attendees for tuning in.

Day 3 – eCommerce Strategy & Buying

IAB Canada’s virtual eCommerce Week came to a close on September 24th. Over three days, we dug into the issues faced by both well-established eCommerce brands, as well as those who have been forced to the scene. Read on for the highlights of day three as moderator Julia Thorne, Media Account Manager at Media Experts, talks all-things eCommerce strategy and buying with the industry’s key leaders:


Devon MacDonald, CEO of Mindshare, offered insight into why to think more “Snakes and Ladders” and less “Twister” when planning eCommerce.

  • The Top “Snakes”: Competing KPIs, Disjointed Experience, Knowing Your Customer
  • The Top “Ladders”: Site Tagging, CRM Integration, Complete Measurement

The key to optimizing all of the above “ladders” is organization and integration. Map out everything that’s going on within your ecosystem and customer. Yes, this is an investment, but the work pays off. Having these pieces in place allows you to understand key analytics, including media performance, creative performance, audience development, attribution, budget optimization and predictive analytics.


With an unprecedented holiday shopping season nearly upon us,  Jason Brilant, VP Sales at VerticalScope, and Jeff Novak, General Manager at RedFlagDeals, discussed how major brands have begun to zero in on “the undecided shopper” and leverage tools for market intelligence and accelerating sales. They shared proven retail strategies and tactics from client case studies, such as accelerating demand using user-generated content (UGC), marrying affiliate and paid media through content guides, and measuring the pulse of consumers with surveys and product tests.


What role does artificial reality (AR) play in eCommerce? Kuldip Gill, Director of Sales at Native Touch, shared how AR display ad units can be leveraged for a contactless retail environment. Not only does using AR ad units boost product engagement, they also increase online sales and dramatically improve add-to-cart rates as seen with Clearly’s virtual try-on campaign.


Is your SEO and paid search in a civil war? Jennifer Osborne, CEO at Search Engine People, shared how ecommerce campaigns can effectively use paid search and SEO together to increase ROI 10X.

“Even small improvements to the speed of a site can have positive effects on business results.”

  • A 0.1 second improvement of mobile site speed increases conversion rates by 8.4% on average for retail sites.
  • To optimize product feeds, make sure your product description is unique, keyword rich, includes pricing and has an accompanying high-quality image.
  • Drive positive reviews – Google uses rich snippets in product page results.
  • Upload products to Google Merchant Centre and leverage organic SEO (even if you’re not planning on using Google Ads!)
  • The goal of looking at SEO and PPC data together is to improve media efficiency and the performance of “search” overall.

We’ll leave you with a quote from one of our event speakers, Devon MacDonald:

“eCommerce planning has never been more important. In eCommerce, the game never ends – the cycle is continuous.”

Many thanks to our moderators, speakers, sponsors and attendees for making this series possible. We look forward to continuing the discussion at future virtual IAB Canada events. Check out the highlights from the re