Global PerspectivesJanuary 7, 2020

Industry Insider: Idan Driman, Director of Marketing at Toys“R”Us Canada

How has retail changed over the last decade? How will it change in the next?

We caught up with Director of Marketing at Toys“R”Us Canada Idan Driman in Toronto to discuss the state of the retail industry at the turn of the decade, the role of the physical store and regional differences.

 

 

TRANSCRIPTION:

Julia Raymond:
Here we are at the end of the decade and at the start of a new one, and it seems like the perfect time to interview retail leaders about the state of the industry – where we’ve been and where we’re headed. Which is why I’m joined by Idan Driman. Welcome.

Idan Driman:
Thank you very much.

Julia Raymond:
He is the Director of Marketing for Toys“R”Us Canada and brings a decade of retail experience from his work with Sears Canada and various other brands.
To start, I wanted to take a look back and ask you what are some of the challenges and the biggest hurdles retailers faced over the past decade behind us?

Idan Driman:
Well, honestly I think the biggest change was actually with the customer journey. So the way customer or shoppers shop completely changed. I think a lot of people focusing on a kind of specific aspects, mobile or social, and other elements of technology. But I think at the end of the day, all of this goes back to how the customer journey changed and how shoppers shop. Shoppers today are basically much more educated, they have better tools to be educated, they have more ways to transact and get what they want. And I think that’s, on the retailers side, that’s the biggest challenge. How do we adjust the strategies? How do you form marketing strategies to logistic strategies to anything that we do? How do we adjust to that new customer journey? How do we follow it?
I can take, for example, at Toys“R”Us Canada, that’s what we’re trying to do. When we look every year and every year, and every time when we evaluate the strategy, we basically go back and understand how do we change it to match that customer journey. For example, we mention mobile. So thinking mobile first, whether it’s design, marketing, and so on. So we start thinking and imagining and ideating and designing with mobile, and then going through the other channels, because that’s where the customer starts. Same with other technologies, and so on. But again, back to, I think, to the focus of adapting and following how the customer shop, which has been definitely changed in the last 10 years.

Julia Raymond:
How they shop and just the customer almost having more information in some cases than the the store associates. Not for every retailer, but that definitely, I think, was a hurdle to keep up with the customer almost.

Idan Driman:
Yes. A hundred percent, a hundred percent. They have so much more information, much more well informed. It’s much easier to get that information. Like, to your point, they are less dependent on the retailer as a source of information as they used to be in the past, but it’s also a good opportunity for the retailers as an added value, to find different ways to address that need.

Julia Raymond:
Absolutely. Absolutely. And as we look forward, so you talked a lot about the customer journey and how that’s really evolved over the past 10 years because of all the devices that we use, the mobile optimization. I mean, it’s like an extension of our hand, right?

Idan Driman:
Yeah.

Julia Raymond:
So as we look forward to the next 10 years, the new decade, what are some trends that you think will really gain traction or attention from retailers?

Idan Driman:
Well, it’s funny. I think part of the challenge in the next 10 years, with the current pace of technology, that’s not even doable, to think what’s happening in 10 years. It’s like coming to someone in the 1950s and ask them what will be in the next millennium, right?

Julia Raymond:
Yeah.

Idan Driman:
That’s the current pace of technology. But let’s even look at three to five years. I think again it’s back to that customer journey. The main thing that will happen, the customer journey will continue to evolve. The customer will continue to have more… Basically it’ll be easier for them to shop. They will have more tools, more information, more ways to shop. New technology will actually, at the end of the day, help them to make decisions for themselves. So I think that’s the key thing, because I think I would avoid when retailers, and that’s what we are also doing, avoid trying to focus on one element like artificial intelligence. What are we doing there? Or mobile, what are we doing there. Or voice, what are we doing in voice as a standalone initiative.
Because I think at the end of the day, you need to look at it realistically and see how it’s changed for the customer, and then adapt. And those are only enables or triggers that you can or technologies that you can use to match your offering and what you want to do as retailer, specifically for your offering to match with the customer need your area with those elements. Not technology for the sake of technology.

Julia Raymond:
Absolutely.

Idan Driman:
But in taking those enablers and choosing the ones that are relevant or useful for you as a retailer and leverage them. For example, in our case in Toys“R”Us Canada, the experience is a big factor, right?

Julia Raymond:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Idan Driman:
Like we sell products, we sell toys, we sell baby products, but at the end of the day, if we’re looking at toys, we want to create an experience, a specific experience. So we are looking at the next 10 years, technologies or opportunities that will enable us to deliver that experience around toys. If you look at the baby side, I’m a parent of a five years old and I remember that stage. Both my partner and I, when he was a baby, very overwhelming. So I think what for Babies”R”Us, is how do we leverage those next 10 years technologies and opportunities to basically help that customer to choose the right product, that will help them to navigate through that day. Very exciting, but overwhelming period of time.

Julia Raymond:
Right. And help guide them, like you said. Right? Because there’s so much choice.

Idan Driman:
Absolutely. Yes.

Julia Raymond:
So it sounds like you’re saying, from mobile to AI to voice, not to put the cart before the horse and just focus really hard on one area, because it’s really a holistic focus that retailers should have and it should follow where the customer is going and what they’re demanding most.

Idan Driman:
Hundred percent. And we take for example, voice. Don’t do voice because now voice is trending, and even maybe it’s trending for the right reasons, but now I’m doing voice. You’re not doing voice. You should look at what might my customer need specifically for my category, and then how can I leverage voice and can voice help me to achieve those objectives or enable that journey. And I think, again, not voice for the sake of voice, specifically how it benefits. Toys”R”Us Canada, we started to look at it and again, from that point of view, okay we understood our customer journey, their needs, where they need to get more information. Now how can voice enabled that? I think there’s a lot of times that you can see one retailer does something successful with voice for example, and then there’s like, “Let’s copy paste that to our company and do that.”

Julia Raymond:
Right. But it doesn’t always transfer.

Idan Driman:
Exactly. Because your customers have different needs, different requirements, different customer journey. So I wouldn’t rush for the most running thing and copy paste it. I would first figure out the customer journey, how it evolves, and then enjoy those new opportunities and new technologies that can help you fulfill that customer journey.

Julia Raymond:
Right. Absolutely. And with that same thought, the role of the physical store has really changed. So not only has the customer journey just blossomed over the last 10 years with all the technology, but then also physical stores. We’re seeing a lot of reduction in square footage, we’re seeing some inventory changes. Is there anything specific to your category in toys or baby goods that is changing with the role of a physical store?

Idan Driman:
Yeah. Again, sorry for taking us back to the customer journey, but I think that’s the same. Again, as a technology store, is a neighbor, is something to help you to help the customer through their journey. Right? So the same approach as with technology or anything else in that journey, store is the same thing. So as retailers, and specifically for Toys”R”Us Canada, is that asking the question, “How does store help the customer navigate the journey? What is the role of the store in that experience.” It’s that guidance. And giving, for example, our example, we have two brands under Toys”R”Us. We have the Toys”R”Us and we have the Babies”R”Us, right? And with some differences in customer journey. So the answer, the store should be also different. The role of the store can be different.
So we keep asking ourself, “What is the role of the store?” And adjusting and leverage a store to provide that, is that experience. So we have store events, right? We have tournaments. Yes, we are here to sell product as part of the journey. But how do we also get to other areas? For example, we offer a car seat technicians. So, we identify there is a need there. It’s not just about going to the store and how the store can provide added value versus other channels, right? Providing that element of, okay you come into buy the car seat. So one, we guiding you through that car seat, right? That’s the journey. We helping you to choose the right one, but your journey does not end there.
You go to this the car and like how do I put it-

Julia Raymond:
Yeah, we all have trouble with car seats.

Idan Driman:
Exactly. I mean, it’s very overwhelming, right?

Julia Raymond:
It’s your child’s safety, right.

Idan Driman:
Child safety’s your top of mind. So how do we address that? In the store, we have already have an associate that we made sure that they’re going to a course and they can guide you. So again, that’s just an example to see how the store can bring that added value. So I think that’s the key. And I think, again to what I said earlier, I think it’s different for every retailer. So if you’re going to try to see what other retailers in other category or other competitor are doing in their store and copy paste because it worked for them, I think that’s when sometimes you’ll see failures, because they have different customer journeys and I think it’s the same challenge as online.
Like, I know e-commerce was trending right and like everybody’s online, and then you see everybody, the first thing, let’s have a website. And it’s other e-commerce, but they basically, it’s only transactional website. Is that what your customer in your category needs? I think the ones who would win would be the ones who are asking the same as they asking for their retail presence or their store presence, like asking for the online presence, what does it mean? Like only for transactional, or are we providing guidance?. Are we providing content? Are we providing other things through that new technology or new channel that has the different capabilities to offer that and match it with the customer journey?

Julia Raymond:
Certainly. And it’s so specific like you said, because some things you saw at Babies”R”Us probably are more transactional and they could be purchased online easily. But then there’s specific toys that kids want for Christmas or the holidays, and providing content like you said, that’s relevant and helpful for the parents. How do you identify those services, those value add services, like the car seat example that you gave? Is it through conversations with customers?

Idan Driman:
So I think a conversation, yes, 100%. Conversation with customers. By the way, sometimes conversations, one of the things that digital help us is to have a knowledge of the customer journey without speaking to the customers. Again, it’s not instead, in addition, these tools of intent and viewing the customer journey today with digital, you get all this data. So using that data and information to better understand the customer journey. We meet with any group that can help us. For example, we are working very closely with our merchandising team and trying from them to understand, because I’m working in marketing, expertise in marketing, but these other places where other people, whether customers or internal people, that know better about the product. So we really get all information that we can, whether in person or digitally, to again figure out that customer journey and then match that customer journey using technologies, stores, marketing channels, to see where we can address and best serve our customer through that customer journey.
Just one example of different technology. I can think, I’m looking for sneakers from time to time. I’m a sneaker head want to be. So you see, like for example AR is a technology that they start to leverage there because you really want to see, how it’s going to look like in the shoe and the things very relevant for this category, really adds value and give a reason why go to that online shop. Why not the different online shop. But for other retailers wouldn’t make sense and wouldn’t worth that investment. In our case in Toys”R”Us, Babies”R”Us content. So we put more focus on content and engagement and so on. We have very specific social media channels that others don’t leverage. So I think that’s really understanding where the customer journey, what fits for your category, what serves your customer. And I think then you are going and trying to figure out. The good news, we have more tools, we have more technology. That’s one hand. The other hand, it’s challenging to make sure that you are focusing your resources and investment on the right ones that fits back to your customer.

Julia Raymond:
Certainly, and breaking down the silos, like you mentioned. Marketing, we’re working with merchandising, and every department within the retail business. Since we’re filming this segment in Canada, I wanted to ask you, are there regional differences that retailers should be aware of when you’re looking at somewhere like Canada versus Asia versus EU or anywhere else in the world?

Idan Driman:
I think first thing is, like if I compare it to the US, one of the challenges that Canadian retailers and I had in the past 10 years, we are smaller. So it’s kind of a strength and a weakness. On the weakness side, we are smaller, we have less resources. I remember having a conversation with a counterpart in the US, we spoke about our CRM teams. He described, his team is like there’s one person for email, one person for mobile push notification and so on. And he’s like, “Tell me about your team.” And I was like, “It’s one person.” So I think that that’s just the thing, like we have smaller, so we need to deal with less resources to do the same, right?

Julia Raymond:
Yep.

Idan Driman:
So that’s one big challenge we have in Canada. But I think the other side of that, which is our opportunity, we’re much leaner, which makes us much faster, eh and able to move fast and adapt new innovation and so on. And at Toys”R”Us, we definitely leverage that. We’re working with our partners and really getting to those betas and new technology very fast. And we don’t need to align with 20 people and so on. We just go and test and learn and do it. So we take advantage of that, I would say, lean organization. I think you also need to sometimes find the quick wins, look at South of the border, see what was successful there, and adopt. Again, making sure it aligns with the customer journey, but sometimes use the fact that we are a much leaner organization to kind of run faster than anyone else.
I think the other element, the difference is the demographics and so on. So I mean, I’m an immigrant. I immigrated from Israel 10 years ago to Canada, and I think it’s important to understand Canada versus other other countries. Like again, we went back to the customer journey. It’s different people, different customers. So I think that’s the main difference and understanding like where I came from, in both shopping habits and different needs and so on. So taking that into account. I think one big things as an example is Chinese immigration, specifically because in China there’s different ways of consuming media and shopping. Use of WhichApp and [inaudible 00:17:12], and focused on mobile. There’s much more tendency to use application like WhichApp rather than a website. So really, I think our challenge in Canada is being informed of those shopping habits and again, aligning our customer journey to make sure that we are serving the different, the multicultural, the kind of shopper’s map of Canada.

Julia Raymond:
Definitely. So taking some learnings basically from some of the bigger markets and seeing what the trends are there and if it matches what the customer needs here in Canada. And then like you mentioned, China as an example. I mean, mobile pay. I believe the stat is over 80% of people in China make mobile payments every day. So that’s a huge jump from US or Canada

Idan Driman:
A hundred percent. And one example at Toys”R”Us Canada, so mobile payments, installed mobile payments in 20 of our stores, especially in regions where we know there is a greater population of immigration from China. So again, it’s matching that customer behavior, right? Allowing them to shop the way they want to shop. Also we launched this year, our accounts on WeChat, understanding that… Because I remember like there was a recommendation, “Translate your website to Chinese or Mandarin.” And that’s a perfect example, because like that’s a copy paste, right? Like okay there’s more people who speak that language in Canada, so let’s translate our website. But when you’re actually trying to understand, it’s like how they consume media, how they shop, you basically realize that that’s not what you should do. So we actually increased our presence in the new social media. [inaudible 00:19:06] WeChat, we making sure that the content there is is tailored and relevant. So I think that’s one example of how to approach that, I would say diversity or multiculturalism in Canada, versus how it’s done in other places.

Julia Raymond:
And absolutely. You said you tested and learn and it wasn’t the language translation that was really what was going to move the needle. It was more about interacting with the customers and providing mobile pay and WeChat and things like that. So that’s really, that’s interesting. You would never know unless you do have those conversations. Right? So yeah, absolutely. Idan Driman, thank you so much for joining me today. I really enjoyed our conversation on retail and I hope to have you on again.

Idan Driman:
Same here. Thanks for having me.