Five Questions for Michael LeBlanc – CanWest Interactive

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_After six and a half years at “Hudson’s Bay Company”:http://www.hbc.com/, Michael LeBlanc recently left to take on a new role as General Manager/Director – Shopping at “CanWest Interactive”:http://www.canwest.com/interactive.html. We caught up with Michael to ask him about the move and his feelings on the state of e-commerce in Canada…_
*One Degree: Congratulations on the new gig. You’ve been at HBC for quite a while now – what precipitated the change?*
I spent over six great years at “Hbc”:http://www.hbc.com, both in the online business and within their CRM group – learned a ton and planted a few flags on hilltops across the Canadian eCommerce/retail landscape. The role CanWest offered me was an outstanding opportunity to leverage my experience, learn about a new industry and work with some of the best and brightest in the game.
*One Degree: As a media company people don’t normally associate Canwest with retailing. Any hints as to how you’ll integrate commerce into a largely ad-supported business model?*


Thinking broadly about CanWest’s future role in the marketplace, I would say that there is a tremendous opportunity to leverage the publishing, broadcast and “interactive network”:http://www.canada.com to drive incremental business for ourselves and for our retail customers.
*One Degree: The general consensus is that Canada lags behind the US in terms of e-commerce adoption. Assuming you agree, can Canadian online retailers overcome the underlying causes for this situation?*
Well, first of all let’s make the distinction between online shopping (i.e. browsing) and online buying (actually purchasing a good or service online). Canadian online consumer use of the medium, their level of online research, is quite comparable if not greater than the U.S. Consumer habits change slowly – Canadian retailers need to continue focusing on executing against online best practices and offering consumers the best online retail experience possible. I’m confident that in time this market will achieve parity with the U.S. marketplace, particularly as the next generation grows into their prime consumption years.
*One Degree: Shopping aggregators like Google’s “Froogle”:http://froogle.google.com, “Shopping.com”:http://www.shopping.com and others seem to be making real inroads with consumers. Do you see these sites growing increasingly powerful or will consumers continue to desire direct relationships with trusted retailers?*
I think there is room in the market for both, with each having a different value proposition and role to the consumer. At the end of the day, consumers do not purchase from aggregators, they purchase from retailers – ultimately that is where the last mile happens. Each retailer will compete with their own value proposition, product offering and similarly, aggregators will need to present a compelling value proposition to consumers to remain relevant.
*One Degree: What is the biggest mistake that traditional retailers make as they move online in Canada?*
I would first of all say that the good news is that many Canadian retailers are executing best-in-class global eCommerce strategies. For example, look at “Sears”:http://www.sears.ca and “Hbc”:http://www.hbc.com in terms of ordering online and picking up/returning products to their stores;think of what “Canadian Tire”:http://www.canadiantire.ca and “Best Buy”:http://www.bestbuy.ca / “Future Shop”:http://www.futureshop.ca do in terms of linking their websites to product inventory in-store; and look at what “The Shopping Channel”:http://www.theshoppingchannel.com does with their web + television strategy.
If by traditional retailers you mean bricks & mortar retailers, I would say that there are opportunities to both leverage customer insight to make their online store more relevant at the customer level, and leverage probably one of the biggest online trends in general – the empowerment of user-driven content at the product merchandising level.

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