The very fact that you are reading this page probably
means that you are a non-Canadian online merchant and
that you are interested in finding out a little more
about what you can do to get more sales from your Canadian
traffic. Due to the sheer magnitude of online merchants
hailing from the United States, this page is pretty
focussed on what American merchants can do to get more
out of the Canadian market place. This doesn't mean
that merchants from countries other than the USA will
not find the information useful so everyone please read
With the recent decline in the American economy, American
online merchants have been looking for new and different
revenue streams to tap into. The smart ones are looking
North. Canada in already Americas largest trading partner
and we share many similarities. We consume the same
television, radio and music. Our two countries also
share media, language and geographical location. In
fact, shipping to some places in Canada is closer to
the merchant than delivering to some places in the USA!
With a market of over thirty-million people on your
doorstep, it is worth a look.
Unfortunately there are some basic reasons why the
Canadian online shopping market has under performed
when compared with the same market in the US. The following
points summarize some of these problems and how you
as a non-Canadian merchant can overcome them.
Taxes, Duty and Brokerage fees
Shipping and shipping fees are the single most important
hurdle for Canadian online shoppers today. For most
Canadians - when they shop online, they head directly
to the merchant's Shipping page to find out: a) does
the merchant ship to Canada AND b) What will it cost
to ship to Canada. Shipping fees, taxes, duty and brokerage
fees can be staggering! Depending on how the order is
shipped, the Brokerage fees can be twice the price of
the actual item! No wonder Canadians avoid shopping
online. The many urban legends about the fees have made
many fearful of the hidden costs involved with
buying online... We have created a CanBuy.ca
shopping tips page to try and demystify some of
the fees but there is plenty we can all do:
Use the United States Postal Service (USPS)
to ship to Canada - they have the best rates and least
expensive customs broker fees. They have a relationship
with Canada Post. Canadians feel comfortable dealing
with their national post office.
Avoid UPS and FedEx - they have the MOST expensive
customs broker fees
If you must use a courier for shipping - use
the air freight option - it will be expensive but it
has the brokerage fee built-in (at a much better rate)
Have a clear statement for Canadians on shipping
pages telling them if and how you ship to Canada.
Do your homework and provide as much info about
shipping fees as possible (a flat rate shipping fee
is always appreciated)
Offer free shipping for Canadians - this is
an accepted method of upselling and increasing conversions
- why not offer it to Canadians? If you aren't willing
to eat the $9.95 to ship a iPhone to Vancouver, then
why should a customer be willing to buy it AND pay a
whopping huge brokerage fee. Meet Canadians halfway
and you will win every time!
Duty - under NAFTA, if a product is not manufactured
in the the United States, Canada or Mexico then the
purchaser must pay the import duty. This is an additional
import tax. It would be very useful if you added this
fact to your shipping page and keep track of what items
are manufactured where.
Local Canadian warehousing - some merchants
who are truly serious about serving Canadian online
shoppers have opened Canadian warehouses to reduce the
cross-border shipping fees to their customers. If you
are not doing this, this is a great idea for you to
Canada Post operates a program called Borderfree.
This will allow you to show Canadian customers, at the
checkout, exactly what all shipping fees will amount
America has established online free trade with
some countries other than Canada. If we all push our Government
leaders, we can hopefully establish online free trade
with Canada too. Write you member of Parliament or Congressman
One simple way to convert Canadian traffic is to setup
a geo-targeted Canadian specific landing page. These pages
go a long way in making Canadian shoppers feel more comfortable
and ready to buy. Canadian specific landing pages are
a great upfront opportunity for you to provide shipping
information and content unique to your Canadian visitors.
A simple image of Maple leaf is usually enough to tell
Canadian shoppers at a glance that your merchant site
is Canadian friendly. If you operate an affiliate program
you should provide your Canadian affiliates with Canadian
specific links and creatives. Better yet, these creatives
could land on that new Canadian specific landing page!
Discounts, Coupons and promotion codes
Why not create a campaign and offer a coupon or promotion
code just for Canadians. As mentioned previously, a free
shipping coupon only pays a part of what a Canadian customer
will ultimately have to pay for that purchase.
For some time now, the Canadian dollar has fluttered
around the same value as the American dollar. At times
it has even been more valuable than the American dollar
yet we still see price tags that read $1 in the USA
and $1.15 in Canada. If your prices don't represent
the reality in the value of the Canadian dollar then
forget about selling to a Canadian.
Cultural stereotypes like Canadians always saying "Eh!"
or "aboot" and drinking beer is simply ignorant.
These things will drive Canadian customers away to your
competition faster then you can imagine. Show Canadians
the respect that you would any potential customer and
you will see great results.
Respect Canada's Cultural differences