Case Studies - Product Design - Government / Non-Profit

How Canoo is Helping Newcomers Integrate Better

An app for immigrants to Canada, redesigned by 3 Sided Coin, shows how positioning and design can have an outsized impact on outcome

Collage of screenshots from canoo app on black background

1. Canoo repositioned from a ‘pass’ to a ‘club with member privileges’ – a much more attractive proposition

2. Which metric matters more? The new registration flow was slower, but reduced errors and support queries.

3. A new blog feature has been very successful in creating awareness and encouraging sign-ups

The Canadian government has pledged to allow more than 1.45 million permanent residents between 2023 and 2025. The Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) was established with the aim to celebrate newcomers and encourage active citizenship.  To help with this mission, they developed an app called the Canoo Access Pass (CAP), which allowed new Canadian citizens to get a one-year membership that unlocks free VIP access to over 2000 experiences annually  across Canada (e.g., Concerts, arts & culture, travel, volunteering, etc.).

However, the proportion of permanent residents taking up Canadian citizenship within ten years of arrival declined 40% between 2001 and 2021. 

Clearly, CAP needed a relook and relaunch. While it was a truly innovative idea, not enough people knew about it, and those who did, viewed it as a transactional ‘pass.’

The comprehensive redesign included a new name, a new brand identity and re-engineering the app and website ground up. The scope of the program was also increased to include a larger ecosystem.

Infographic showing 4 stages of Canoo customer journey, 1. Download, 2, Verification, 3. Activation, 4 check-in to Places
Success for Canoo has meant not only greater registrations, but also an increase in the use of the access that the app provides.

The Impact

By all accounts the relaunch has been a success. Since its redesign by Indian design firm, 3 Sided Coin, in May 2022, the Canoo app has seen more than 300,000 new registrations compared with 21,000 in the previous version of the app. The Canoo website, since July 2023, has reached over a 100,000 views every month within six months of the redesign.

Another encouraging statistic is that 85% of members activate their membership within the first 30 days, and of those, 67% of Canoo members check-in to their first location within the first week of activation.

What  caused these changes and what can we learn from them?

Name & Positioning

The name Canoo, derived from canoe, evokes the uniquely Canadian history of how people once traveled through parts of Canada that were considered impassable.

The new brand identity was created by Creative Business Company and inspired by mid-century Canadian modernism. Their team focused the message on the ‘what’ of the value proposition (free access to thousands of destinations) rather than the Institute’s ‘why’ (inclusion and belonging).

The design and communication strategy also tried to make Canoo feel like a special club. Clubs have members, and with membership comes privileges. Newcomers earned those privileges by choosing to come to Canada.

App & Website Redesign

The  app and website redesign by 3 Sided Coin had three broad objectives:

#1. Make the experience more intuitive and the app easier to use

As an example, Tejas Bhatt, founder, 3 Sided Coin, points to the sign-up experience.  

During registration, users are required to scan both the front and back side of their immigration document. Even though only specific sections were needed, most users ended up scanning the entire document, making the information hard to capture. Based on insights from user research and customer support queries, the instructions and interactions in the interface were made more explicit and clear.

“The older flow was faster,” says Bhatt, but the new flow has resulted in far greater accuracy and reduced customer support queries.”

The new sign-up flow has increased accuracy and reduced customer support queries

Another important aspect is that instead of just redirecting the user to individual partner sites, the app allows for meaningful check-ins. When a user taps on ‘Check-In,’ they can either scan a QR code at the venue, or get a pin that they can show at the door for tickets.

#2. Add features to encourage user acquisition and engagement

The Canoo website, built on WordPress, serves the purpose of creating strong brand awareness amongst their audience. The redesigned website’s most successful new feature has been the Canoo blog. The blog has allowed the team to create new guides, write about member experiences, and highlight partnerships and their benefits. Many of the articles from the blog have started ranking on the first page of Google search results with 7.6 million search impressions, reaching relevant users. 

An interesting example is a post on the Canoo blog post about the ‘Tim Hortons double double,’ – a specific order of coffee from Canada’s biggest coffee chain, Tim Hortons. The post ranks higher than the Tim Hortons website itself for the same search.

Traffic to the website has increased to 300,000 new visitors, leading to increased awareness. 

The website now also hosts a directory of Settlement Agencies specialising in services such as child care, language support, and mental wellbeing support.

The Canoo program has expanded to include ALL new citizens and permanent residents beyond the 1-year limit they started with, and Canoo alumni are invited to renew their memberships.

Screenshots from canoo app showing messages for alumni
Canoo now serves 200,000 returning alumni.

#3. Extend the brand identity principles to create a visually rich experience

“The idea of Canoo feeling like a club and not a transactional app, guided the product design experience,” says Bhatt.

The visual design follows an editorial style, reimagining the mid-century modernism in a new digital avatar with bold colours. The type palette consists of Neue Montreal. 

The app and the website have a dark scheme, which allows the pictures of national parks, galleries, and museums to take centre-stage.

Screenshots from canoo app showing activities and attractions that users can access, 10 things to do this Christmas
The redesigned Canoo experience is based on the idea of a club, where members are given privileges. The dark theme allows the visuals of attractions to be showcased to their best advantage

Canooing into the Future

With the 2022 redesign, Canoo expanded its program to include newly arrived permanent residents. In  2024, Canoo now serves all members perpetually without the 1-year limit. This means it has an addressable market of 2.7 million immigrants, with 200,000 returning alumni. 

The team has also added new features that have helped newcomers connect with their local communities and gain access to exclusive offers from Canada’s top brands.

The Canoo app currently has a 4.8 rating on the app, based on over 8,500 ratings.

For new Canadians, cultural assimilation is but one part of new lives in their new homes. With its network of 400,000 people and over 100,000 sign-ups every year,  Canoo has helped ICC get the pulse of the challenges these new immigrants face, potentially allowing it to build tools that help them with other aspects such as career, education, and societal engagements.

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