Published: March 26th, 2013
Canadian Tire COO Marco Marrone may have said it best: “Why would Canadian Tire want to open up a digital development lab” at Communitech, the Waterloo-region’s technology hub that features other labs from Google and BlackBerry.

The Canadian Tire digital development lab will sit right in-front of BlackBerry and Google’s lab at Communitech. By being a part of Communitech, Canadian Tire joins nearly 1,000 high tech solution providers from start-ups to large global vendors. Canadian Tire will have five full time employees on site working alongside others at Communitech tasked to improve the shopping experience online and in-store. The lab will also handle the retailer’s social news feed and classic ‘catalogue’ and ‘magazine’ style content.

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One of the areas the major retailer is trying to improve on is its in-store customer experience by equipping staff with large tablet devices that can local products and services quicker for shoppers, said Eugene Roman, CTO of Toronto-based retailer.

Roman acknowledged to CDN that online storefronts such as Amazon.com has put pressure on Canadian Tire especially in the area of product delivery.

Marrone added that about 90 per cent Canadians live approximately 15 minutes from a Canadian Tire store. “In some place we are more recognized than Santa Claus,” Marrone said.

Canadian Tire is the most visited retail Web site in Canada with more than 100 million visits in 2012. The retailer already has a retail app and its e-flyer is viewed by more than 20 million Canadians a year, Marrone said.

Roman said that new technology will help Canadian Tire address the delivery expectations of customers today. For example, if a buyer purchases a product on the Canadian Tire Web site it would inform that customer of the closest location for product pick-up.

Canadian Tire is a 90 year old retailing pioneer in Canada. The company opened its first store in the Waterloo-region 75 years ago and Marrone said that retail environment has become really competitive for bricks and mortar operations.

“The bricks and mortar retailer is not going away but its obvious the digital play has become more important and we think of technology differently by working with sought-after partners that will help us implement solutions. By joining Communitech it gives us access to the brightest thinkers in this space and it should give us a competitive advantage,” Marrone said.

Canadian Tire has already tapped a Communitech member for a 3D immersive solution. Kitchener, Ont.-based solution provider RealityCave, developed a 3D immersive visualization of a Canadian Tire store.

According to Jeff Botham, vice president of RealityCave, this 3D solution can test new store concepts, shelf and seasonal displays and shelf allocation.

The solution was built using technology from Christie Digital, Google SketchUp, AutoDesk and Unity Technologies, a 3D gaming software vendor from San Francisco.

Communitech was founded by a group of IT entrepreneurs back in 1997 to help support and build technology projects. Today Communitech generates more than $30 billion in revenue and is a member of the Ontario Network of Excellence, which is funded by the Ontario government.


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