Canada eCommerce Country Guide

A guide that can help you improve your cross-border strategy

Canada offers an outstanding cross-border opportunity, with the added advantage for British retailers and brands that it is largely English-speaking and strategically Brexit-proof. Its 35 million wealthy consumers are amongst the most connected in the world, and are well used to online shopping cross-border, currently making more than half their ecommerce purchases from outside Canada. Moreover, local online competition is relatively weak, although this is starting to change so don’t leave it too long!

Canada has been a sleeping giant of the online retailing world until very recently. In actual fact, Canada has undergone a rather strange two-tier internet journey. On the one hand, its consumers are amongst the most connected in the world, and spend significant time online: they are the world’s most prolific watchers of online video content for example. On the other hand, Canadian businesses, including retailers, have been very slow to respond, to the extent that the Canadian government has felt the need to conduct inquiries into its poor online development. There’s no obvious reason for this, other than inertia: the general infrastructure for online retailing is excellent and Canada Post well-equipped to support ecommerce parcels.

Canadian consumers have responded by shopping online outside Canada to an extraordinary extent: it’s claimed that almost 70% of Canadian ecommerce was cross-border in 2014, mostly from the US of course. While ecommerce penetration into retail was generally low, this probably didn’t matter too much, but Canadian ecommerce has now reached a tipping point, and penetration is expected to roughly double from circa 4.5% to circa 9% over the next few years, accelerated by Amazon’s presence.

For the non-Canadian retailer, this presents an almost ideal opportunity: a country of wealthy consumers rapidly waking up to online retail, well-used to making purchases from non-domestic sites, facing badly prepared local competitors, in aninfrastructural and legal environment which is sympathetic to ecommerce.

The Canadian market is over 25% larger than Benelux and over 50% larger than Australia, both typically considered prime cross-border retailing targets. Its preferred payment methods are standard (unlike the challenges of Germany or Netherlands), its social networking, search and general marketing environments familiar, and complexities such as taxation are less onerous than across the border in the US.

The only real barriers are slightly high customs tariffs (which may start to come down now the free trade agreement with the EU has finally been signed), the (optional) challenge of operating in French for Quebec, and somewhat higher shipping costs. None are insurmountable.

In short, if you’ve looked seriously at Australia, then you should look even more seriously at Canada. eCommerce in Canada appears to be taking off in the way that it suddenly did in Australia a few years ago. The sleeping giant is waking up…CA.rpe Diem!


To view the contents of this guide, visit the links below:

Retail Landscape  

Internet usage

Shopper behaviour




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