We all know that running a retail business is a little bit different today than it was last millennium. While your grandmother may have pushed a cart around the aisles of Woolworth’s and picked up the flyer at the store entrance to find deals, you’re more likely to scour 83 different deals sites before buying a voucher for a product, then order it to be delivered to your door.

With shoppers now being able to instantly evaluate the reputation of a store with their friends help, and price-check product prices against competitors with the help of a smartphone, retail remains a rapidly changing business that has already claimed several victims in the name of progress. How is a modern store keeper to keep ahead of the curve? Toronto social media marketing agency ThirdOcean puts forward some suggestions in its just-released Currents report. The project seeks to explore how digital communications are affecting the relationships retail stores have with customers. Along the way, it unveils some good examples of simple-but-smart things Canadian retailers are doing to stay connected with shoppers.

Take Toronto’s Buytopia.ca as an example. The deals site caters to specific cities across Canada (Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, etc.) and is facing its share of competition in the deals site space. But it’s managed to make a name for itself and ThirdOcean highlights some of the reasons why that might be so.

Free money mentality


Buytopia works with retailers like Sears and La Vie en Rose to offer gift cards at a discount price. Selling a $30 gift card for $15 makes the shopper feel like they have free money to spend, and they’re less likely to be price sensitive on the individual items they buy. This could help prevent “showrooming” where a customer uses a bricks-and-mortar store to get their hands on a product, but then buys it elsewhere on their mobile device.
National and local at the same time
Although it spans across Canada and represents its brand as one unified front to the consumer, it also breaks down its shopping experience by local city. Visitors to the Web site are asked to select what city they are from before deals are presented to them, and a customized e-mail newsletter goes out to each area. They also use social media to speak directly to people in specific regions, using hash tags to drill down into the right conversation.

Sharing, sharing, sharing
The operators at Buytopia must have been former Beaver Scouts, because they are true to the motto of “sharing, sharing, sharing.” The site encourages users to let their friends know about the deals they buy via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or an e-mail message. Shoppers get an incentive to share – being paid $1 per friend that follows through and completes the transaction. As ThirdOcean points out, Buytopia considers this one of its most powerful feature.
Open reviews
Buytopia not only allows customers to rate and review the products it sells, but has a team dedicated to collect them. The site has got past the fear of negative feedback and are seeing better customer engagement as a result, and becoming a trusted source of product information.
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  • Chris

    Ahead of the curb? Is this an autocorrect fail? Curb does not equal curve.

  • Isaac

    Oh well! How much did Buytopia pay you to write this?? They are all copying Groupon. We all know that but on the top of that they rip everyone off!
    Are you kidding me??!

    • ITBusiness.ca would never accept payment to produce an editorial article without clearly marking it as sponsored content. There are many businesses that would be considered followers of the Groupon model. What bad experience did you have with Buytopia?

  • Noel

    I bought a $10 nose hair trimmer from Buytopia on August 7th and so far (October 3th), I have never received it.

  • Becareful of Buytopia (Scam)

    Buytopia is a scam. A simple google search can reveal this.

  • itbusiness sucks!

    Well this is the last time I ever visit itbusiness.ca. They obviously have no clue what’s going on in the business world evident in their failed research into Buytopia and all of the customer complaints Buytopia has received.

    • Tell us about that. What customer complaints are you referring too and did you have a bad experience? In the case of this article, we were reporting on a paper released by thirdocean.

  • Anonymous User

    BUYTOPIA IS A SCAM. Do not promote these con artists!

  • jackie

    I had a bad experience as well. Rude customer service and no refund after i explained that it was hard to make the appointment with the snowmobiling company. And the fact that there was no insurance. If any damage would occur to the machine then you can see charges on your credit card for up 5000. Pretty risky for me.
    There was no indication that there was no insurance in butopia or that you would expect to provide credit card for any damage.
    After this iam sticking with groupon at least they message promptly and resolve the issue with complete professionilism.
    So just you all know and for brian please really do your homework. Lesson learned for me . First read the reviews .