The current state of Canada’s online shopping and e-commerce industry

Small Business Canada

Sylvia Ng, CEO of ReturnBear

Sylvia Ng is the CEO of ReturnBear, Canada’s first end-to-end returns solution. As a product growth and analytics professional with over 18 years of experience at the intersection of data, engineering, and marketing to fuel business results, Sylvia has helped lead ReturnBear since late 2021.

Sylvia is a proud Ex-Shopify General Manager, where she led a multi-disciplinary team to scale Shopify’s Channels products and org for nearly three years. Sylvia currently serves as a General Manager at Koru, a Toronto venture capital and private equity foundry led by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan to drive innovation among their portfolio companies. In conjunction with her current role, Sylvia is the founder of Amidira, a Toronto-based startup helping patients and caregivers fight cancer through gift boxes and lifestyle content. Sylvia is an active speaker at tech industry events such as Women in Product, SMX, and Big Data Toronto, being named 1 of 21 Best Growth Hacking Blogs to Follow and one of Inspiring Fifty’s Most Inspiring Women in Canadian STEM in 2018.

How will you describe your journey as a product growth and analytics professional with a passion for using the intersection of data, engineering, and marketing to fuel business results?

I began my career in analytics. I was passionate about bringing new ideas to the table and started actioning on insights myself through marketing. Later on, I moved into a growth and product role and eventually moved to lead multi-disciplinary teams, first at 500px and then at Shopify and Koru (a venture foundry and early-stage fund founded by the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan). I would describe my journey as always taking opportunities that allow me to make an impact, regardless of the discipline of work.

What is your opinion about ReturnBear’s new announcement of national expansion which makes retail returns easier for Canadians with new package-free drop-off locations at premier malls, enhanced product offerings, merchant partners etc?

Ecommerce has boomed with COVID, and so has returned. Online shopping spiked, but Canadians were left with few options for returning their order in an easy and convenient way. Not to mention, returns are notoriously bad for both retail bottom lines and the environment. With ReturnBear’s national expansion, we are giving Canadian consumers a choice to drop off returns along their commute lines, which not only creates efficiencies for retailers but is better for the planet too. It’s very exciting to work with merchant
partners like California Cowboy and Franc who are similarly aligned on a vision of creating great consumer experiences while simultaneously being earth-friendly.

What are the problems faced by Canada’s online shopping industry, and what are the measures taken by ReturnBear in solving them?

The Canadian population is very geographically dispersed which means the shopping industry here faces high shipping costs. Canadians are often subjected to extended shipping times, delays on money back through returns, and limited drop-off locations. By expanding our return drop-off network, ReturnBear is leveraging existing consumer commutes for returns, which saves retailers a lot of money. ReturnBear also does quality assurance and dispositioning on behalf of retailers, so that they get ready to sell the
product back into their forward fulfillment faster.

What is the technology behind ReturnBear being the industry leader? What are the newly added features that are helping in predicting the future of retail?

ReturnBear is the first end-to-end reverse logistics solution in Canada that ties a national drop-off network with a comprehensive software platform. The technology allows retailers to manage return operations and analyze and monitor return trends with a merchant admin app. Retailers can also offer self-serve package-free drop-off and exchanges and returns to their Canadian customers through a tablet application that allows for the efficient intake of returns at brick and mortar locations.

Why do you think the increase in online shopping will continue in 2022? And what impact will it have on both big and small store owners of Canada?

Canadians quickly adapted to using technology due to the pandemic, and these new consumer behaviours will continue to persist in 2022. Additionally, in 2022, Canadians will continue to seek and demand online shopping. For retailers, however, it is becoming increasingly costly to find and retain customers online, especially with recent iOS tracking and Facebook ad changes. Retailers, both big and small, will need to continue to find efficiencies and work with partners like ReturnBear to increase ROI.

What would you like to suggest to the business owners who are badly affected by the increasing retail returns?

Lean on existing technology resources and don’t try to take on the problem yourself. Twenty years ago, no solutions existed for eCommerce websites. Retailers had to build their own platform to provide their services to interested customers However, now the eCommerce software industry is fully developed and has proven that retailers should leverage the existing tech instead of trying to build without expertise. The same is now happening for returns. So don’t reinvent the wheel; let ReturnBear help you!

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