Written by Jessica Galang

The theme for this year’s two-day conference was Experience Digital, as the organizing team acknowledged that customers today are now enticed by meaningful experiences and not effective marketing.

As such, talks throughout two days reflected how companies could better connect with customers. Thirdshelf co-founder and CTO Antoine Azar explained that while retail has traditionally been transactional — focused on inventory and revenue — today, retailers should be taking advantage of the customer data they have and convert it into lifetime value.

“What relational retail does is it takes customer data [and asks]: who are your customers, what do they like, how often do they purchase from you, and why did they purchase from you,” said Azar. “Amazon personalizes the content and the prices on its website 2.5 million times a day.”

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Simon Tooley, founder and CEO of Etiket, said that customers now expect you to know who they are. “Now there was a time when the consumer would say, ‘hey, that’s invasive.’ Now they’re saying, ‘No, they care that I must be running out so they’re gonna save me the hassle.’ The way that we live, are we not looking for that relationship?”

Breather growth marketer Dan Jacob said that to get noticed — especially when you’re building your first 1,000 customers — companies should try to be part of their customer’s community. He gives the example of a time when the Breather team bought coffee for everyone in a local Toronto coffee shop for two hours, and the team engaged in conversation with every person during that time. “Now, let me tell you, that’s a way better rich consumer action than you’re ever going to get,” said Jacob.

For startups, the highlights of the conference were Dx3’s PayPal Zone, which showcased 35 Canadian startups, and then invited 10 to pitch on stage for a chance to win SingularityU Canada Summit Tickets. The Retail Innovation Challenge gives startups the chance to debut its product at an Oxford Properties-owned shopping centre, and pitch in front of the Retail Council of Canada.

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The startup winners of the first-ever Retail Innovation Challenge was StyleID, which allows users to shop according to a style seen in the media, rather than by product or brand.

“Winning the Dx3 competition allows StyleID to connect directly with our users by way of the interactive space in Yorkdale,” said Sarah Juma, co-founder of StyleID. “It also gives StyleID the opportunity to showcase the various solutions we offer to brands and retailers.

Toronto-based SmartTones ended up winning PayPal’s pitch competition. SmartTones allows advertisers to emit inaudible tones during commercials, which triggers an ad on the viewer’s smartphone. The resulting collection of data lets advertisers know what is seen by who and exactly how they respond.

“We’ve always thought of ourselves as more than a trade show or an event,” said Dx3’s director of content Eric Mercer a few months prior to the event. “Attendees form new business relationships with partners and potential clients. We want to boost that community.”

Photos courtesy Dx3

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StartUp HERE Toronto is a publishing partner of Betakit and this article was originally published on their site.