Building resilience in your business amid dropping consumer confidence

Key Insights:

  • Consumer confidence is an important economic indicator that indicates expected future spending and saving
  • Conference Boards of Canada’s Consumer Confidence Index continue to drop in 2022; inflation and rising costs, as well as geopolitical tensions, are likely contributing factors
  • To combat the effects of low consumer confidence, businesses can focus on strengthening their brand, marketing to the right audience, and providing products or services that matter most to their customers
  • Vaughan Economic Development is here to help you succeed – connect with us today to grow your business with confidence

The Conference Board of Canada announced at the end of February that the Index of Consumer Confidence dipped below 100 for the first time in nine months, driven by concerns about future finances. Only 16% of respondents had a positive outlook six months from now, below pre-pandemic levels. However, confidence in the job market remains; 23% of those surveyed by the Conference Board of Canada were optimistic that despite job losses seen amidst winter public health restrictions, opportunities will return in six months.

What is consumer confidence and why does it matter?

Consumer confidence is a leading economic indicator measuring the health of a country’s economy, telling a story of how the recent past has affected general economic outlook and what expectations consumers have in the near-term future.

As an economic indicator, consumer confidence offers a signal of future households’ spending and saving. The Conference Board of Canada’s Consumer Confidence Index is based on a survey of Canadian households, measuring their optimism on the economy’s health. It looks at answers related to respondents’ anticipated financial situation, how they feel about the general economic climate, their employment outlook and capability of savings, and their expectations in the short-term future. It is important to note that consumer confidence is often seen as a lagging indicator, as survey results may be largely covered by what has already happened in the economy.

Understanding consumer confidence helps businesses plan for the future. Well-informed businesses make decisions to strategically adapt to a changing landscape.

This index is a critical indicator of near-term sales and can have a profound effect on the financial health of businesses. The index assumes when consumers have higher levels of optimism, they will increase spending – in turn stimulating the economy. If consumers turn pessimistic, they will spend less money, dropping revenues and this could lead to a recession. Understanding how attitudes and outlook affect consumers’ purchasing habits allows you to better anticipate imminent changes to trends.

Why is consumer confidence dropping?

Canadian confidence has been tempered by inflation and associated rising costs, increased geopolitical tensions, and decreased purchasing power as wages fail to keep up with inflation.

Increased inflation and rising fuel prices are affecting consumer spending while increasing the amount consumers are saving. Wages have failed to keep up with inflation, which means consumers will alter habits to adjust to their decreasing purchasing power. Wage data from January’s Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada found Canadian wages rose 2.4% during the same period, as inflation surpassed 5% on a year-over-year basis. Prices rising faster than wages means that Canadians are experiencing a decline in purchasing power.

The Bank of Canada reported in January that concern over inflation is widely shared by many Canadians, and many think that it will continue to be high for the next two years due to global supply chain interruptions seen during the pandemic.

Three steps you can take to combat dropping consumer confidence

Focus on strengthening your brand, market in a meaningful way to reach the right customers, and supply high-quality products or services that meet expected consumer needs.

Many of the factors affecting consumers’ confidence are beyond the influence of individual companies, but there are steps you can take to mitigate the effects of low consumer confidence and the changing economic landscape. Be proactive to maintain the financial health of your business – here are our recommendations for steps you can take in any climate for long-term security:

Build brand reputation to drive confidence

Having a reliable brand with a strong reputation builds repeat business and brand reputation is critical to reaching potential customers. The foundation of brand reputation is brand awareness – consumers need to know you exist and recognize your products or services for your company to be in consideration. Cultivating a strong brand reputation means choosing your product or service becomes easier for your end consumer. Naturally, delivering on a strong reputation, you can simultaneously build long-term loyalty with your customer base, which in turn helps to further expand awareness of your brand. On top of the positive effects on sales and customer relations, improving brand reputation can help improve talent retention – when employees also buy into the reputation and work their company does, job satisfaction increases.

Re-visit market research to focus on market segmentation

Making your marketing count is especially important during a downturn, and revisiting market research to better understand your customers can help your marketing be more impactful. When consumer confidence drops and spending tightens, customers begin assessing their spending priorities and re-evaluating what is valuable to them. What may have been true previously about your target market may be evolving. Target markets will need to go beyond basic demographics and home in on psychographics. Psychographics look at the attitudes, motivations, personalities, and values of end consumers, which may shift during periods of lower consumer confidence. Revisiting market research and re-examining your market segmentation is integral as your customers reassess priorities and reevaluate what values are now important to them. Focusing on market segmentation will allow you to create messaging and value around new consumer behaviours and motivations, adapting to make sure your marketing speaks in the right way to the right potential customer.

Use innovation to add value and increase competitiveness

During periods of low consumer confidence, companies may see a tightening of available cash flow. While this may trigger firms to look at cutting costs in other areas, continuing to invest in innovation can position you to better weather any uncertainties in the economy. Innovation doesn’t necessarily require major spending.  After re-visiting your market research, focusing on market segmentation, and really understanding your target market, especially the psychographics, it is now time to look at what it is you are offering to the end consumer. Prioritize innovating on what is important to the customers you’ve identified and differentiate your business to increase customer loyalty and profit margins. Find problems that you can address as well as brainstorm potential new opportunities. Innovation could look like changing or creating business models while adding value to existing products and services (such as adding services to product-based businesses), creating collaboration opportunities, or building strategic partnerships. By reflecting and adapting to a changing landscape and investing in innovation, you are positioning your business for improved longevity and resilience.


From supporting small businesses through the business planning process, to end-to-end site selection assistance, to research and business intelligence, Economic Development is here to support businesses of all sizes to succeed in Vaughan and is your go-to source for insight into Vaughan’s economic community. Connect with us today.

Sources

Canadian Survey of Consumer Expectations—Fourth Quarter of 2021, Bank of Canada, January 2022

Rising Prices Stifle Canadians’ Confidence, Conference Board of Canada, February 2022

Keep Your Business Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Key Insights:

  • Cybercrimes continue to be a growing concern for small and medium-sized businesses
  • Small and medium organizations can improve resiliency and competitiveness by engaging in cyber defence best practices and investments in cybersecurity controls.
  • There are a number of free training options, resources and security controls available to help protect your business.
  • Vaughan Economic Development provides business advisory services, workshops, and connections to supporting organizations to assist businesses of all sizes – connect with us today!

Why cybersecurity matters to your business

In an increasingly digital world, small and medium-sized organizations have shifted to doing business online and remote working. In the latest Canadian Survey on Business Conditions released in the second quarter of 2022 by Statistics Canada, 31 per cent of businesses surveyed were unsure if they would take on new or additional cybersecurity measures. However, it is important for businesses to take cybersecurity seriously – a recent Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) survey shows that one in four (24 per cent) small business owners reported an increase in cyberattack attempts against their business last year. Cyber incidents impacting businesses are making headlines every day, and cyber attackers are finding new and more sophisticated ways to exploit and take advantage of all organizations.

But first, what is cyber security?

Cybersecurity is the practice of putting measures in place to protect a company’s data along with clients’ data from cyber threats and attacks. Cybersecurity protects your information, devices, social media accounts, and networks from being exploited by cybercriminals.

Types of cybercrimes

Cybercrimes are always evolving, it is important for business owners to be aware of the following common cybercrimes.

Ransomware: A type of malware that prevents you from accessing your systems or files until a sum of money is paid.

Phishing: Employees can become one of the weakest links to ensuring the safety and security of a system or network. Email or text messages that appear to be from a legitimate source, but contain infected attachments or malicious links. If recipients open the attachments or click on links contained in phishing messages, they may download malware or be directed to malicious websites.

Spam: Unsolicited messages to many recipients to advertise or to achieve malicious intentions.

Fraud: The act of wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.

Cyber Security Protection Tools and Resources

While it isn’t always necessary to implement all cyber security controls, it is encouraged to adopt as many as possible to enhance your cyber security. Looking for steps you can take to protect your organization’s networks and information from cyber threats? Here are some free tools and resources for small and medium-sized businesses to get started.

  1. CyberSecure Canada Program – This program offers a free, self-paced online eLearning course that will help you understand the certification requirements. You may be eligible to receive funding to help offset the costs of implementing cyber security controls and getting certified. Learn more by visiting the Canada Digital Adoption Program webpage.
    1. Free eLearning series: Self-paced modules designed for learners with minimal technical knowledge
    2. 13 Measures to Enhance Cybersecurity for Small and Medium Organizations
    3. Get cyber certified: Voluntary federal certification designed to help your organization improve its cybersecurity practices
  2. Simple Secure: Cyber security fundamentals e-learning modules for business owners:
    1. 10 Steps to an Effective Cybersecurity Program for small and medium-sized businesses to minimize cyber risks
  3. Assemblyline – a malware detection and analysis tool developed by the Canadian Centre Cyber Centre and released to the cyber security community.

Turning cyber security into a competitive advantage

Businesses can leverage cyber security as a positive differentiator by showcasing transparency and reassuring their customers, partners, investors and suppliers that valuable information will be secured.

Furthermore, being cyber certified can improve your organization’s cyber security knowledge and ensure your business is eligible to compete for new business opportunities that require cyber security certification. By being proactive in cyber security controls, it can help limit the impacts of a cyber incident including financial loss, reputation damage and loss in critical infrastructure, litigation and job losses.


For more information, visit CyberSecure Canada website and learn more about the cyber security certification program for small and medium-sized organizations.

The City of Vaughan Economic Development teams offers advice to entrepreneurs and businesses of all stages and sizes. Book a consultation today.