Why you should expect new product launches to start slower in Canada than the U.S.

Many companies are treating Canada as an extension of the American market when devising marketing strategy, particularly in relation to launching new products. In turn, expectations of how the product will perform are often driven by what happens south of the border – and if Canadian sales are slower, it can lead to some hard questions for marketers to face.

However, the BrandSpark Shopper Study provides an important insight here – initial product launches should generally be expected to start slower in Canada than the US, for no other reason than differences in attitudes between shoppers in the two countries. And this difference is relatively new, having emerged over the last few years.

One of the best indicators of this is the question “I want to be the first amongst friends and family to try new products”. The more shoppers that say this, the higher initial sales will typically be. As figure 1 below demonstrates, a significantly higher proportion of US shoppers now feel this way.

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Figure 1. Want to be the first among friends and family to try new products

In 2015, shoppers in both countries responded similarly. In 2019, US shoppers were over 10% more likely to say they wanted to be first. While that may not sound huge, the relative difference implies that – all else equal – initial adoption of a new product may typically be 40% higher in the US than Canada. That is a very significant difference.

This was not the only statement that pointed in this direction. A similar difference exists for the statement “actively look through stores for products that are new a different”, which Americans over 10% more likely to say this as well.

What it means is very simple. If a new product was launched in both countries, with absolutely no marketing support whatsoever, it would likely be more successful in the US than Canada. There’s simply more shoppers seeking new products out, and wanting to be the first to try them. In Canada, more shoppers are sitting back and waiting, and looking for proof of the product’s effectiveness before making the leap to purchase.

Understanding this has important implications for Canadian marketers, particularly in terms of setting initial expectations. And it points towards higher investment in initiatives that will get new products in front of the shopper, and provide them with proof that it’s what they need. This is an area our Sister company’s Shopper Army platform can help – particularly in terms of ensuring brands quickly generate a sufficient number of credible, high quality product reviews for new product launches in order to help drive adoption.

There are many ways Canadian and American shoppers are the same – but the differences between them matter. With Canadian shoppers less likely to seek out new and try new products on their own, it’s incumbent on Canadian marketers – particularly those being compared to US benchmarks – to understand and communicate the differences between the two markets, and focus more investment on initiatives that will help win over the more skeptical (and patient) Canadian shopper.

If you’d like to learn more about differences between the Canadian and American shopper, feel free to reach out to me (Denis Hancock) at BrandSpark anytime. If you’d like to learn more about how Shopper Army can help ensure your new product launches are a success, contact the Shopper Army team.

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