Our neighbors to the north have lots of work to do when it come to capitalizing on the many e-commerce opportunities available to them.
With the approach of the first ever ClickZ Live Toronto conference in beautiful Toronto springtime, it's now apropos to remove my pan-North-American and global marketer hat, and definitely time to scale back on the Facebook selfies of me neck-deep in snow, in order to reflect on the unique qualities of the Canadian online marketing landscape. These are issues we've covered at the SES conferences in Toronto for more than 10 years. What's the latest?
The scale of advertisers' spends north of the border has continued to grow, and the good news is, Canadians themselves continue to be some of the savviest and most active online players in the globe. The WebCertain Global Search and Social Report 2014 demonstrates, for example, that Canadians are second in the world in digital video views and duration of video viewing per month. YouTube advertising, anyone?
Plain and simple, though, Canadian advertisers haven't yet fully taken advantage of the massive opportunities open to them to reach consumers as they go about their digital day.
A Long Way to Go Yet
Are Canadian marketers still shirking their digital duty? It appears so. Consider:
In career planning, a lot of bright young Canadians might feel like the opportunity in Canadian e-commerce is too small, that the scale pales in comparison to the United States, so why pursue a national Canadian project when you could hop on board with a global start-up, take a job at a large telco like Rogers or BCE, or seek thrills in a (oft-publicly-subsidized) media job in broadcasting or film? You can say "digital" in your title when you do those things, right? It's all good.
Strictly for e-commerce opportunities, though - from the standpoint of a hardcore PPC marketer - the lack of aggressiveness in Canadian click auction participants remains befuddling. There's money sitting all over the table, just waiting for some motivated parties to bend slightly at the waist to pick it up.
The "scale" excuse is gone. Canada's population - mostly English-speaking and sharing most consumer tastes and demand patterns with the U.S. - continues to grow steadily toward 36 million, and because of our proximity to the U.S. and our national prosperity, we should be punching above our weight - purchase-power-wise, perhaps more like a nation of 64 million (here, I'm referring to the U.K., not France, in case there is some chance you would have guessed the latter!).
Many aren't aware that Canada's scale and potential, e-commerce-wise, dwarfs nations with similar-sounding GDPs, populations, etc. - countries like Italy and Australia. There is a tipping point where it makes sense to invest in teams, to iterate rapidly to sufficient data, and so forth. Canada is one of those countries that has (finally) reached that point.
Canada has also contributed at least its share the world's digital culture and business innovation. From Marshall McLuhan to Cory Doctorow, "thinking" nearly seems like a national pastime. On the hardware and software side: BlackBerry, though now "fourth" in the mobile space behind Apple, Android, and Microsoft, had a hell of a run. The world's first true smartphones for the enterprise didn't come from Australia or Italy. One doubts that they could have.
And what about our start-up scene? BlackBerry's decline hasn't dented that. Many people think HootSuite will IPO in the next year. What kind of an awesome environment for entrepreneurship must it be that a three-person skunkworks software-as-a-service (SaaS) operation inside of a 12-person digital agency can grow so rapidly to the point of landing a $165 million mezzanine round of funding? Yet all too many Canadian entrepreneurs gripe about the "hurdles" they face in this most privileged of nations. True, our venture capital funding environment is weak, but there are many sources of funding, including angels and pension funds. And surely the fresh air up here can add octane to any entrepreneur's thought processes.
Need proof that there is lots of unclaimed search inventory still left to bid on in Canada? Check out a screenshot of this search on the keyword "l'eggs." Not a single advertiser! I'm hanging my head in shame.
So there's no market for "l'eggs" as a keyword, but this market's still got legs. Or something like that.
My advice to you, naturally: If you're a Canadian business or digital pro, put aside your befuddlement as to why your competitors so lack the requisite mojo, and profit from their sloth. (And if you're an American company, you may find opportunity in Canada with less locally based competition than you expect.)
The market really is reaching the scale we need to justify the time and investment we put into it. And no, it's not your imagination. After all these years, there's still plenty of runway ahead. Favorable CPCs, competitors who don't test as much, competitors who are timid at best in their marketing experiments and behind on key features in both core SEM and display ads, all served up to you via some of the fastest broadband connections known to humankind.
Did I mention full support from fully built-out sales and support offices, from all of Google, Bing, Facebook, eBay, and Twitter? To say nothing of a critical mass of tech workers in key functions at marquee tech companies like Cisco, BlackBerry, Microsoft, Mozilla, and hundreds of others; plus one of the most vibrant ad agency and media scenes anywhere in the world? (Catch Kirstine Stewart, head of Twitter Canada, at ClickZ Live Toronto, where she'll give the keynote speech.)
It's time for Canadian marketing departments to catch up with the inherent digital savvy of the Canadian people. And if they don't? More low-hanging fruit for you.
Homepage image via Shutterstock.
Goodman is founder and President of Toronto-based Page Zero Media, a full-service marketing agency founded in 2000. Page Zero focuses on paid search campaigns as well as a variety of custom digital marketing programs. Clients include Direct Energy, Canon, MIT, BLR, and a host of others. He is also co-founder of Traffick.com, an award-winning industry commentary site; author of Winning Results with Google AdWords (McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed., 2008); and frequently quoted in the business press. In recent years he has acted as program chair for the SES Toronto conference and all told, has spoken or moderated at countless SES events since 2002. His spare time eccentricities include rollerblading without kneepads and naming his Japanese maples. Also in his spare time, he co-founded HomeStars, a consumer review site with aspirations to become "the TripAdvisor for home improvement." He lives in Toronto with his wife Carolyn.
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