A Canadian Guide to Finding the Best eCommerce Platform Software

We have reached a point where it is no longer optional for businesses to sell online using professional eCommerce software. Thriving in today’s retail environment demands it and so do consumers.  Not only must you sell online (preferably as part of a multi-channel experience), but you also have to do so professionally and securely. The best eCommerce software makes it all manageable and further ensures profitability.

Canadian consumers are shopping online and they want to buy from Canadian businesses. A UPS/Leger study found 51% of Canadians surveyed would only holiday shop in Canada in 2016. 43% of those respondents said it’s because they prefer to shop Canadian. Almost eight in ten Canadians want to be able to pay for their purchase in Canadian dollars when shopping online. A PayPal/Ipsos survey reported 73% of Canadian online shoppers planned to buy holiday gifts from Canadian retailers instead of buying from US or international websites. 83% of Millennials in this country planned to shop online from domestic websites.

How big is the Canadian eCommerce market? A recent Internet Retailer report stated analysts predict Canadian consumers will spend more than $30 billion CAD online this year, but Canadian companies are capturing less than half of those sales. Sadly, many retailers in this country don’t have a website with eCommerce functionality. If B2B and B2C retailers want to survive in today’s world, they have to stop seeing the Internet as competition and instead embrace it as a profitable opportunity.

Today’s eCommerce solutions are designed for those with limited tech skills. Virtually anyone can learn enough to maintain an online store and bringing in an expert will help you thrive. If you can find someone like me who can manage all online business tasks, from eCommerce to marketing, you’ll find it to be very cost-effective. Even if you have to hire several people, the increase in profit should more than cover the expense and you can save more by hiring a remote team. That said, you needn’t hire anyone until you’ve grown to the point of requiring an eCommerce Manager.

Ease and speed are just the beginning of what today’s eCommerce platforms have to offer. Most of them come with a long list of features, including everything you could possibly need to operate a business online (and often offline too). You’ll enjoy user-friendly content management, customer relationship management, marketing tools, online and offline payment options, security, analytics, and more.

Perhaps the most daunting task is selecting the right eCommerce software for your Canadian business. While “the best” of anything depends on what you’re looking for, there are standard features that virtually every online business in Canada requires to run their online store.

Questions to Ask eCommerce Platform Providers

Questions to ask when considering an eCommerce platform provider may include:

  • How many domains can you use the store software on?
  • Is the store optimized for mobile?
  • Is there a good selection of quality templates?
  • Is it user-friendly for both you and your customers?
  • Is there room to grow without having to find a new eCommerce platform or host?
  • Are all app’s, plugins and modules included or should they be added to the cost analysis?
  • Are there limits on the number of products you can carry?
  • How does the platform hosting compare to other website hosting? Do they offer unlimited traffic, etc.? If you need Canadian-friendly hosting, view our Checklist: Choosing a Website Host for your Canadian Business.
  • Is their guaranteed “up time” over 99%?
  • Is credit card processing included through a payment gateway? Or will you need your own merchant account?
  • What kind of product display, search and navigation options are available?
  • Can you support multiple languages, such as French?
  • Can your prices be in Canadian currency?
  • Is the check-out process easy?
  • Are Canadian taxes calculated?
  • Are there Canadian shipping options, including Canada Post?
  • Can you and your customers track their order?
  • Is there customer review/rating functionality?
  • If required, will you be able to sell information product downloads?
  • What marketing features are included, such as up-selling, social media, affiliate program, ad tracking, CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation) compliant eMail, coupons, gift cards, and shopping cart recovery?
  • How extensive are the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) features? Will you be able to manage leads as well as sales?
  • How detailed are the analytics and reports?
  • Do they provide free software updates?
  • Do they offer exceptional customer support? Can you reach them by phone and eMail?
  • Is there a knowledge base with guides and tutorials?

eCommerce Platform Software for Canadians

The following list will get you started on your search for the best Canadian-friendly eCommerce platform. I’ve used all of them, either for my own online businesses or on behalf of clients.  They fulfilled all of our Canadian requirements, but it’s important that you find out which one is the right fit for you. Make a list of what you need and send them an email, and/or sign up for a free trial to check it out yourself.

Shopify (Based in Canada)

“Whether you sell online, on social media, in store, or out of the trunk of your car, Shopify has you covered,” the site proclaims, and they aren’t exaggerating. This eCommerce platform is the top choice of Canadian businesses and our number one recommendation. Shopify is suitable for small, large and growing businesses.

Choose from a hosted eCommerce solution or use the software with your chosen website host. Shopify has a fantastic selection of high quality, mobile compatible templates, as well as app’s for a vast array of extendable functions and features and it’s constantly growing.

There are excellent Point of Sale (POS) features, including a card reader and merchant account, level-1 PCI security compliance, and Canadian sales taxes are automatically calculated. They accommodate all types of online selling, from direct sales, to social media, to drop shipping or fulfillment centres like Amazon. Sell unlimited tangible products, digital downloads, gift cards, and easily integrate discount codes or coupons. Shipping is a breeze through a range of Canadian shippers and flexible rates.

SSL certificates are included for all hosted pages (which Google says reflects well on your ranking), as well as unlimited bandwidth, 99.99% up-time and daily backups. The support team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by email, live chat, and phone. They also have a help centre, forums, and eCommerce University. Overwhelmed? Work with a Shopify-approved eCommerce designer, developer, or marketer.

Top eCommerce Platforms for Canadian Businesses

BigCommerce Canada

Toyota, Payless and Martha Stewart are just a few of the big brands using BigCommerce. Ipsos says their best-in-class marketing tools facilitate growth at twice the industry average. BigCommerce is cloud-based so they’re a more economical option than many eCommerce platforms. When we checked for basic Canadian compatibility, they stated, “Canada is in our top three largest markets.”

Choose from over 100 mobile-responsive online retail themes, or use their advanced customization framework to create a unique storefront. Alternately, you can tap into their global network of more than 2,000 designers and developers who can help you build the ultimate store for your business. Extended functionality is provided through a wide selection of app’s.

Big commerce offers bulk product import/export, product categories, built-in image zoom, and a homepage carousel. There are dozens of integrated payment solutions, payment options for high-risk industries, and of course, a secure shopping cart and POS solutions. Real-time shipping rates are provided. Sell direct, or on Amazon and Facebook.

Support is provided through documentation, guides, BigCommerce University and an online community.

Volusion

Volusion is a hosted eCommerce platform with more than 900 features, yet is very easy to use. Website, shopping cart, and hosting are all included, with a 99.9% uptime guarantee. Get support building your store with dedicated account managers and expert resources. They offer eBay, Amazon and drop shipping integration, along with stellar eCommerce features such as a reward program and “deal of the day”.

Secure, PCI/CISP certified & flexible payment options, including all major credit cards and PayPal. There are no transaction fees. Each package has a limit on product numbers except for the Premium Package that offers unlimited products.

You’ll have powerful SEO tools at your disposal. Optimize URLs, meta tags and image alt tags to boost rankings in all major search engines. Share products effortlessly from your eCommerce store with social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

If you need help, they have one of the most highly acclaimed customer service teams in the industry, backed by an exceptional knowledge base. Support is provided online or by phone, depending on which package you purchase.

LemonStand (Based In Canada)

LemonStand is a Software as a Service (SaaS) eCommerce and content platform intended for web designers or those with more advanced web design skills. For those who aren’t as advanced, they offer setup and migration professional services, or they can pair you with a LemonStand design and development expert. Once the online store is set up, there’s an easy to use interface for store owners and staff, along with integrated Customer Management Software (CMS) and Blog software.

Using LemonStand, you can sell retail, recurring subscriptions and digital products. You have the option to offer volume and wholesale pricing to specific customers or groups. There’s a choice of over 18 payment processors, PCI/DSS compliant infrastructure, and site-wide SSL. LemonStand offers built-in integrations to many popular web services and thousands more integrations via Javascript and Zapier.

Increase sales with product extras and cross-sells with related products, along with advanced search engine optimization (SEO). Sales and conversion analytics are provided so you can make data-based decisions and track growth.

Enjoy unlimited storage and bandwidth, auto-scaling, “bulletproof reliability,” and Global CDN for “blazing speed”. There are limited monthly orders depending on the package you purchase. The premium package allows unlimited orders. There are no limits on product options and variants. Customize the entire user experience, including the checkout process.

Customer support is available through email, documentation and demo’s.

Why Go With An eCommerce Platform?

eCommerce software will save you so much time and spare you the aggravation of trying to learn and do everything yourself. When comparing the expense with DIY plus regular hosting, make sure you factor in your time (both learning and executing), hiring experts, buying a store template, added security like SSL Certificates and scanning, etc.

If you’re relatively new to online business, you’ll find the customer support provided by the top eCommerce platform providers will be a lot more helpful than most website hosting customer services. Online retail software or SaaS providers specialize in eCommerce and you’ll need that level of expertise as you navigate your way through doing business online. In fact, their success relies heavily on your success, so they have a vested interest in helping you succeed.

Comment on Canadians Internet BusinessWhat are you looking for in eCommerce software for your Canadian business? Please share your requirements or questions in the comments below.

✔ You may also be interested in reading:
10 Hot Product Niches to Sell or Drop Ship Online in Canada
Test eCommerce Waters with Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)
Canadian Growth of B2C and B2B Online Shopping Continues (Statistics)
Canadians Online: Statistics to Guide Your Multi-Channel Strategy

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5 Responses to "A Canadian Guide to Finding the Best eCommerce Platform Software"

  1. Victoria  February 2, 2017

    I’m launching an online business in the spring and after doing research found that Shopify and Big Commerce seemed to have the best features EXCEPT I’m concerned about the charges being in US dollars and am surprised that in all of the articles I’ve read on ecommerce for Canadian companies nobody seems to mention it? Do you have any advice for a small start up considering the current rate of exchange??

    Reply
    • Admin: Melody McKinnon  February 2, 2017

      I add 25% to the price in my budget when a service charges in American dollars. I usually come out ahead that way. The vast majority of B2B service companies will charge in USD, so it’s a fact of life for doing business online in Canada.

      Reply
      • Victoria  February 3, 2017

        Good to know thanks…still think it’s too bad a Canadian company will not charge in their own currency…! I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing some crucial information! I’ll take your advice by adding in that 25% extra. Thanks.

        Reply
  2. CalTO  January 4, 2017

    You’re not kidding!! Platforms are including Canadian options more & more (a decade ago I could only find ONE). BUT they don’t all include everything we need like sales taxes so it pays to ask questions and refer to recommendations from other Canadian businesses. A safe bet is Shopify because they have everything everyone needs and then some. I started with Yahoo hosting and used their site builder store templates but now they’re falling behind in more modern features.

    Reply
  3. Romy Cloutier Quebec  January 1, 2017

    When I first went looking I wastotally overwhelmed by the choices! So I put it off time and time again. Finally a colleague recommended Shopify and I was STUNNED by how easy it is to use even though they had more options than most of the ecommerce platforms I checked out. Guess what? Our site will launch on Shopify in 2017! We’re so excited about this new adventure and the profit we hope it’ll generate. My big concern is the cost of shipping here and i think that’s a deterrent for many Canadian businesses. I’ll be writing to PM Trudeau about that!

    Reply

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