New ways to sell, contactless payments and automation are shaping business in 2022

Mar 29, 2022

Square reports look at consumer and business trends for Canada’s retail and restaurant industries

PD04415 - CAEN Future of Commerce article

Two new commerce reports from Square, the globally trusted software, payments and hardware solution for businesses of all types and sizes, indicate Canadian businesses are increasingly looking to new channels to grow and diversify the ways they can meet Canadian consumers wherever they are. These and other insights are summarized in two new reports from Square Canada: Future of Retail and Future of Restaurants.

Square commissioned Wakefield Research to survey retailers, restaurateurs and consumers across Canada and found that many of the new ways of doing business established through a two-year long pandemic are here to stay. For retailers, the most notable shift is the move to more omnichannel selling, particularly through social media. In fact, more than half of Canadian consumers surveyed (57%) said they are interested in trying newer ways of shopping, such as directly through social media, virtual reality or livestream shopping.

“There is a growing number of marketplaces and social media platforms, each of which approach their audiences differently. This variety can make it difficult for Canadian retailers to figure out how best to reach their customers in a relatable way,” said Roshan Jhunja, GM, Square for Retail at Square. “Fortunately, technology keeps evolving to help businesses. Choosing a business partner with a broad set of business tools can help retailers navigate evolving and emerging channels. And some trial and error can be beneficial; many businesses have had success approaching new sales channels experimentally, testing to see what works and then leaning into that.”

It’s a strategy that is gaining momentum among retailers. Square’s report reveals that nearly all Canadian retailers (88%) who offer online shopping also sell their goods directly through at least one social media platform. More than half of Canadian retailers that offer online shopping have already enabled selling on Instagram (55%) and Twitter (51%). Going forward, Canadian retailers demonstrated an interest in using other newer ways of selling as well, including livestream shopping (56%), window shopping with QR codes for purchases (55%) and virtual reality technology for customers to experience products in a virtual shop (53%).

Restaurateurs have also used creativity to diversify their offerings to customers through the pandemic, with many new sales channels expected to stay in place long after the masks come off. Ninety six per cent of restaurant owners and managers surveyed say they will be keeping at least one innovation beyond the pandemic, including offerings such as online cooking classes (52%), meal or cocktail kits (50%), grocery items or other products for sale (48%), subscriptions or memberships (48%) and pre-made frozen meals (44%).

“Customers are the lifeblood of restaurants, but often it feels as if restaurants are only able to understand bits and pieces of who their customers are. New tools help restaurants recognize who their regular customers are, which customers churned and, overall, how customers are experiencing the restaurant,” said Bryan Solar, GM Restaurants at Square. “This can unlock a lot of opportunities for restaurants to build a larger, more loyal customer base, as well as launch new revenue streams that will appeal to their customers wherever they are.”

Other key findings from the Future of Retail and Future of Restaurants reports include:

Businesses are embracing technology

  • Nearly all Canadian retailers (93%) are using or planning to use automation technology to decrease staff members’ hands-on time, particularly for communicating with customers (48%) and inventory management (45%)
  • Almost all (99%) restaurants agree that increased automation for back-of-house operations would allow staff to focus on more important tasks
  • 42% of Canadian retailers upgraded their business technology in 2021 as a result of the economic impacts of COVID-19

“The Great Resignation” has businesses worried

  • 85% of restaurants continue to experience labour shortages
  • Nearly half of retailers in Canada (48%) expect to struggle with attracting and retaining staff in 2022
  • The concern is even more pronounced amongst larger retailers with multiple locations (52%) and with 10+ employees (51%)

COVID-19 led businesses to invest in ways they might not have otherwise

  • 39% of Canadian retailers expanded their marketing or advertising, with over one-third (34%) adding or expanding customer loyalty programs
  • Restaurateurs see automation as being able to fill critical gaps in many areas when not fully staffed, including accepting payments (57%) and managing orders (56%)

The full Future of Retail report can be found here and the Future of Restaurants report can be found here. For more information on how Square helps Canadian businesses, visit

The Square Consumer Survey – Canada was conducted by Wakefield Research among 1,000 nationally representative Canadian consumers ages 18+ between October 8 and October 21, 2021, using an email invitation and an online survey.

The Square Retail Survey – Canada was conducted by Wakefield Research among 500 Canadian retail owners and managers between October 8 and October 21, 2021, using an email invitation and an online survey.

The Square Restaurant Survey – Canada was conducted by Wakefield Research among 500 Canadian restaurant owners and managers between January 4 and January 18, 2022, using an email invitation and an online survey.