With a consumer base that loves American brands, is very plugged in digitally and among the largest online spenders in the world, Canadian ecommerce is a prime opportunity for U.S.-based merchants. Yet many have remained reluctant to open up a virtual shop there, concerned over language and other cross-border issues.
“Ecommerce has seen strong growth for the last number of years, and Canadians are very open to it,” said Jennifer Campbell, general manager of commercial marketing for Canada Post. “Canadian consumers are spending on average almost $1,500 online per year, and we’re among the world’s most connected online populations. Yet there are still a number of U.S.-based companies that either not been delivering into Canada or are just starting.”
Campbell will talk in depth about the opportunities for merchants in Canada during a free webinar entitled, “The Best Ways to Grow Your Ecommerce Sales in Canada,” hosted by Multichannel Merchant. It will be held Thursday, Oct. 16 at 2 p.m. ET.
“In Canada, we know (American) brands and we’re heavy cross-border shoppers, and there’s a lot of spillover advertising from the U.S.,” Campbell said. “In many cases, it’s just a matter of awareness that brands are selling here and we can shop them online. That’s the hurdle, not that we don’t want or don’t know the brands, we’re just waiting for them to be offered here.”
B2C ecommerce spending in Canada is expected to grow 13.6% in 2014 to $27.5 billion, according to eMarketer, with mass merchants (up 55%), fashion/apparel (up 25%) and consumer electronics (up 23%) among the fastest-growing verticals, according to Canada Post’s own data on parcel volume growth.
While the French-speaking nature of parts of Canada is one of the concerns cited by merchants for not doing business in Canada, it shouldn’t be. According to Campbell, 82% of Canadian shoppers say English is their first language.
“Even in Quebec, where most of the country’s French speakers are, we’ve helped companies launch into that market who have used bilingual pieces to acquire customers,” she said.
In terms of direct mail, Canada is a “low-clutter environment” compared to the U.S., with consumers here receiving 340% more addressed advertising than their counterparts north of the border.
“That’s probably one of the biggest differences between the U.S. and Canada in terms of marketing,” Campbell said. “In the U.S., people bring in a stack of catalogs in the mail every day, but very few Canadian companies are doing it. Plus, the physicality of catalogs is very powerful with the Canadian consumer – we tend to keep them.”
To address this channel, Canada Post has launched a new lower price point for merchants to ship a mini catalog. “It’s a great way to highlight some of their product offerings and drive consumers to their ecommerce site,” she said.