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, securely, and in compliance with Canadian laws. The best ecommerce software makes it all manageable and further ensures profitability.
Why? Because Canadian consumers are shopping online and they want to buy from Canadian businesses.
- A UPS/Leger study found 51 percent of Canadians surveyed would only holiday shop in Canada.
- Forty-three percent 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 percent of Canadian online shoppers planned to buy holiday gifts from Canadian retailers instead of buying from US or international websites.
- Eighty-three percent of Millennials in this country planned to shop online from domestic websites.
How Big is the Canadian Ecommerce Market?
In 2021, there were 24.2 million online shoppers in Canada. Since 2019, ecommerce sales have almost doubled their share of the retail market, reaching $64.51 billion this year.
What’s Stopping You?
Sadly, many small 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 and a critical part of any retail contingency plan.
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. Even if you have to hire several people, the increase in profit should more than cover the expense. 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, shipping discounts, 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:
- 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 you need 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 automatically calculated?
- Are there Canadian shipping options, including Canada Post? Reduced shipping rates through the platform? Fulfillment centres? Drop shipping?
- 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 or use dropshipping suppliers?
- What marketing features and integration are included? Such as sales funnels, social media, affiliate program, ad tracking, CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation) compliant email marketing, 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, tutorials or FAQs?
Ecommerce Platform Software for Canadians
The following suggestions will get your search for the best Canadian-friendly ecommerce platform off to a great start. I’ve used them myself, 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 to ensure secure transactions (and to prevent browsers from blocking your page). Shopify also offers 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? They’ll connect you with a Shopify-approved ecommerce designer, developer, or marketer.
“Today, Shopify is a full cloud-based ecommerce platform with multiple channels,” writes Jon Markman for Forbes. “Customers can easily monitor their web, mobile, social media and physical storefronts. They can manage inventory, process and ship orders, and build customer relationships. There is even robust data analytics, reporting and access to financing, too.”
And now, Shopify is building fulfillment centres to compete with Amazon. The Financial Post says it “wants to save commerce from the ‘800-pound gorilla’ that is Amazon and give it back to the little guy.”
WooCommerce is often the first ecommerce platform used by WordPress enthusiasts. It can facilitate the sale of physical products, digital downloads, subscriptions, content and more.
WooCommerce offers Canadian-friendly options, such as payments through PayPal and Stripe and shipping via Canada Post, ShipStation, Trade Gecko, and more. If you don’t need something as robust as a fully-featured platform like Shopify and/or you have to keep the cost down, WooCommerce will probably work for you.
The basic WordPress ecommerce plugin is free, but you’ll have to add extensions from their marketplace for additional functionality and only some of them are free. There are over 400 official extensions and it’s open-source, so it can be further customized by your developer.
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, and so on.
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.
If you need to learn more about starting an online store, read our Checklist: How to Start an Online Store (Ecommerce Business) in Canada.
??? What are you looking for in ecommerce software for your Canadian business? Please share your requirements or questions in the comments below, or discuss this and other online business topics in the Online Business Canada Facebook group.
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Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In 25 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and ecommerce websites. Her book, 7 Recession Proof Online Businesses to Start From Home, is available on Amazon.
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Which dropshipping suppliers are best for a Canadian dropshipping online store that is built with WordPress?
Some work with WordPress through WooCommerce. Please see The Best eCommerce Software Platforms for Drop Shipping and The Top 5 Drop Shipped Product Suppliers for Canadians for suggestions.
what is the best platform CDN based for online courses and/or instructional videos?
We list several in Top 7 Ecommerce Platforms for Digital Product Downloads that you may find suitable. Good luck with your plans!
woocommerce is a good platform in term of seo you have ore control on it..i prefer woo over shopify
All I hear everywhere is Shopify for everything and everywhere. They’ve really covered it all and I’m proud they’re Canadian.
Outstanding list of questions. That’s the problem with trying something you don’t know much about like online business tech. You can’t know which questions to ask if you don’t know what you’re talking about to begin with. This is such an outstanding resource for Canadians who want to sell ecommerce.
This is very informative and interesting blog for those who are interested in blogging field. I am very thankful for such a great information. Keep it up.
I was overwhelmed by Shopify but they were awesome about walking me through it all. They have massive amounts of info related to ecommerce that really helps beginners too. Our site will be ready for the holidays 🙂 🙂 🙂 in Canada and hopefully international by next Christmas.
We already have a fully functional B2C website. What we really want know is a B2B portal for our dealers to be able to login and see specific dealer pricing and place there order. We have asked if this could be included in our B2C website but it doesn’t seem they are eager to do this so we are looking to do this on our own. We need something that can hold a large catalog as there is a lot of inventory. Any suggestions as we want something affordable and easy to use and simple for our potential dealers.
Shopify has a wholesale ecommerce solution that should work.
Just signed up with shopify so I can’t really say how much I’ll love or hate it. So far its easy to use and I do love the options even if so many is a little overwhelming. I’m happy to know it’s a good choice for my first step in business. I spent most of last year learning about ecommerce and lots of people recommended Shopify.
Shopify is ok but I had a great deal of trouble with the PST issue. Even following instructions it still would add PST to items exempt from it. It would also randomly change PST rates. Not good. Lastly, after my business partner declared herself the owner of the business when setting things up and then took off leaving the business to me to run, Shopify’s only respond was to not take them off the account and suspend the account altogether. Had to find another platform for my still new business to keep going. Very frustrating.
I am looking for an ecommerce platform that Is compatible with a mobile app. software to promote my business all through Canada. I have been advised about shopify.com. I am a newbie and I want an already designed platform to work with and also has the mobile app. compatibility. Thanks
The best thing to do is to contact each provider to find out if they meet your specific requirements. Shopify is the most versatile option.
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??
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.
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.
They should have the option to select the currency (as many do). But I agree, they really should charge residents (and citizens) living in Canada, Canadian dollars. (I was not aware they charged USA dollars). Thank you for the heads-up on that.
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.
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!
Interesting you would mention the cost of shipping! I’ve encountered this same issue too many times. What hurts is when I see someone shipping, for example, from outside Canada, to me, at half the cost (it takes for me to ship to their location). It would be nice if there was a “shipping disruptor” in Canada, who could work with businesses to alleviate the shipping costs (it would help promote growth).