Canadian Ecommerce Expert, James Connell, Shares His Unique Perspective on Innovation in Retail

We had the pleasure of interviewing James Connell, the Vice President of ecommerce and Customer Experience at Roots. James is an established thought leader in retail and has extensive knowledge in the world of digital marketing. He was able to blend his creative talents in the arts with his passion for business which has allowed him to become a world leading expert in the retail space.


James Connell, VP Ecommerce at Roots

Growing up in Wolfe Island, Ontario, with a mere population of 1,400 people year round, James developed a unique skill set through building close relationships with an array of diverse people in his small community. These vital soft skills have taken him far in the business world. Although Wolfe Island is located in Canada, geographically, it is closer to the United States. James remembers spending, “a lot of time shopping through American catalogues in the 80s and early 90s and it wasn’t something that was done as much in Canada”. This is where he believes the platform for ecommerce originates from. Having been exposed to both Canadian and American advertisement from a young age, he was able to see what worked in the retail industry and where there was room for improvement.


James shared valuable information with us about where he believes ecommerce and brick and mortar sales are headed in the next 5 years. He explained that, “the in-store experience will be heavily influenced by the fact that the experience is starting to become part of the product.” People are prioritizing the entire shopping journey. From the initial contact point to checkout, the experience has become ingrained in a successful and pleasant journey for the customer. Shoppers equate their customer experience with the brand. Good or bad, the experience will be memorable for the customer now more than ever.


AI has become mainstream in various industries and it certainly has had an impact on the customer journey in retail. Customers expect personalized experiences and technology helps retailers deliver just that. James believes that, “The use of AI will certainly help us all become more personalized. I also see a point where there is more commerce in chat or messaging to make it more of a dialogue similar to what you would have in-store with a sales associate.” Other benefits of AI in retail can be used, “to present inventory that the users may like based on their in-store purchase patterns and integrating email journey series with a consolidated view of in-store activity and online activity”. The future of retail will be heavily influenced by a company’s ability to maximize the use of technology and their ability to integrate it into their customer journey plan. This includes AI and other tools that help create personalized shopping experiences.


The world of retail technology is busy and at times it can be overwhelming for retailers to decide which partners and tools to use. At Roots, James, “tend(s) to look at solving a problem instead of addressing the latest buzz.” James focuses on finding companies that have similar brand values to Roots to ensure that the mindset and goals of both parties are the same. This helps retailers stay focused on their core strategy without getting distracted by the latest trend.

Retail is a fast pace and evolving industry. Leaders such as James ensure they remain focused on strategy while being open to new ideas. Personalization is key for the customer journey and the use of AI can be leveraged to deliver a similar customer journey as in-store. Stay true to your brand values and remain vigilant to innovation.

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