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.
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. 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? Reduced shipping rates through the platform? Fulfillment centres?
- 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 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 suggestions will get you started on your search for the best Canadian-friendly eCommerce platform. 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 (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? 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 a 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, 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.
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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