Tap Into the Exploding Canadian eCommerce Market

The Canadian eCommerce market is exploding.  E-commerce is the fastest-growing segment in Canada’s digital economy, going from $4.2 billion in 2010 to over $13.6 billion in 2017, according to Statistics Canada. Online sales growth in this country has surpassed the US, to a point that American companies are being encouraged to target the Canadian market.  There has never been a better time for any business to tap into online sales.

What’s Working Online in Canada

Customer-Centric Model: Personalization has proven to be an extraordinary success in online sales.  Marketers boast a 760% increase in revenue when shopping experiences are personalized.  That can include something as simple as a coupon based on past purchases, or intricate multi-channel algorithms that analyze each shopper’s buying patterns and utilize that data to provide their ideal shopping experience.

Amazon has been developing ways to personalize the shopper experience for several years. One of their most basic, yet successful tactics is how they utilize customer data, based on both the individual shopper and other shoppers with similar interests.  Even a simple recommendation, like “Other shoppers who purchased this book also purchased…” encourages spontaneous purchases and provides social proof.

The customer-centric model should also be the basis of direct sales campaigns through shoppable social media features, like those offered by Instagram and Facebook.  Social selling allows you to combine what you know about your customers with what the social network knows about your customers. It can be a powerful combination if it’s done right.

Omni-Channel: Most of us are aware that omni-channel is a must for stores to reach their maximum potential.  Now it’s time to focus on how smoothly that process is from start to finish through truly integrated channels.  Today’s hyper-connected consumers expect no less, whether they’re being served online or in-store.

One of the most important components of a smooth omni-channel process is how we reach and engage the mobile shopper.

“Mobile shopping is a major element of omni-channel marketing,” an eTail report states. “Retailers need a mobile-first strategy. And it’s not just about GPS and tracking. It’s about being where the customer is immediately with personalized messages based on browsing behaviors and patterns.”

International Sales:  Canadian eCommerce is often limited to the Canadian market for several reasons.  There is a misguided attitude that we can’t compete with the US for Canadian sales, so the chances of making American sales are slim to none.  However, 72% of Americans who would like to shop across their border are open to buying from Canadian online businesses.

We can also explore markets in countries beyond North America, but it does demand more research into everything from translation to payment options. Still, with all things considered, it has never been easier to sell internationally.

Chances are your efforts will be rewarded if your business is a good fit for international expansion. 14 of the largest Canada-based retailers saw their global web sales grow by 25% in the past year. The low Canadian dollar is driving that interest, but superior handling of international sales and customer service will keep them coming back.

Content: Never, in the history of retail, has content been so critical to the sales process.  Before the social Internet, sales copy and advertising were the sum total of creative presentation. Now, consumers need to be engaged and excited about a product or service.  The level of information they want reaches well beyond facts and spec’s.  They’re no longer sold by slick tactics and flashy ads, they want substance, transparency and honesty.

Savvy online shoppers expect you to help them decide to buy, not push them into a sale.  They want you to solve their problems and that’s the frame of mind they’re in when they start searching online. Exceptional content in all its forms has proven to be so useful in attracting buyers, that 72% of marketers worldwide said relevant content creation was the most effective tactic in search engine optimization (SEO).

Online Sales Work for Canadian Businesses of All Shapes and Sizes

Small-Medium businesses are the backbone of the Canadian economy and they have a lot to offer to any global marketplace. Unfortunately, many are overwhelmed by the opportunities available to them online and are paralyzed by indecision.

But the beauty of eCommerce is that any business can sell online.  You don’t have to be in a prime location or deal with local demands.  The world can be your market just like it is for large businesses.  You can scale as slowly or as quickly as you’re comfortable with.  The investment is nothing compared to the expense involved with opening more locations, yet your reach is virtually limitless.

Today’s business tools have made it possible for practically anyone to sell online, from home businesses to national brands.  You can learn enough to get started yourself and then hire experts remotely to help you grow.  Your first step is to find a Canadian-friendly eCommerce platform that you and your staff can easily use, even if you’re not a ‘techie’.

You can learn more about starting an eCommerce business with our Checklist: How to Start an Online Store (eCommerce Business) in Canada.

??? How are you tapping into the rapidly-growing Canadian online shopping market? Please share your questions or suggestions in the comments below.


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Digital Business & Marketing Manager at Online Business Canada | Website | + posts

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.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.

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Pascal Walters

Love these specific, actionable tips you share Melody! Your Canadian market insight is exceptional. Do you think the Trump presidency will have any impact on U.S. competition?

Dawson Foss

I bet there will be many more Canadian stores online by Christmas 2017. There’s just no denying that almost every business with products or virtual services needs to be online. Even if you don’t sell online you need to be found there. The first thing ANYONE does when they’re looking for somthing is go online. They want to research and usually buy online or they go to a store they found online. It’s like having your phone number in the phone book…it HAS to be there if you want to stay in business.

They know that but don’t want to do it for some reason. Hire someone! Get it done! I sure would hate to see Canada’s small businesses disappear because they’re afraid of the internet.

Mac Trusse

The online shoppers are there but the Canadian businesses aren’t. I think most of them have been burying their head in the sand where they’ll suffocate. It will be the millennials that finally build a thriving ecommerce sector here. There is hope for some though! Let’s hope you don’t get tired of trying to help businesses get online.