Canadian Ecommerce: The First Step to Going Global?


If you run an American ecommerce website and are thinking about expanding beyond your national borders, Canada is probably your top choice. Going global can be a huge strain due to issues with culture and regulations, but Canada’s market is almost identical to the American one. In addition, Canadians are a lucrative potential market, with more than three-quarters of a large population using the internet. Over half of Canadian internet users are also ecommerce customers, spending $16.5 billion on the internet last year and expected to almost double that by 2015. Here are a few things to think about when deciding whether to expand your ecommerce empire to include our neighbours to the north.

A Growing Market?

As we said above, Canada is a rapidly growing market for ecommerce websites. This fact has already been realized by the big names in ecommerce; twenty-two out of the fifty most popular ecommerce retailers already have dedicated Canadian domains. Canadian ecommerce grew last year in all but a handful of retail sectors. This does not include sales made through mobile apps or social websites such as Groupon, either. In addition, Canada is an easy market for an American retailer to break into. In addition to having a similar culture and language group, Canada is easy for American ecommerce websites to ship to. They use the same payment options and respond to the same types of marketing.

The Other Side

Before you buy that .ca domain, there are a few drawbacks to consider as well. While Canada has high internet penetration, there are markets with far larger ecommerce websites. Japan, for example, is the place where internet sales have really taken off, and many European countries are embracing the age much more rapidly. 

Is It Right for Your Ecommerce Website?

One thing that you need to ask yourself is whether your products are popular in Canada. To fall back on a few clichés, if you are selling hockey equipment, you will see more success than an ecommerce website selling surfing gear. You also need to familiarize yourself with the logistics of shipping as well; the costs to ship large items over an international border may be much more than you anticipate. Do your research before making this huge step. 

One thing to look at closely is whether your competition has a large and/or successful Canadian counterpart. If not, there may be a reason for that. Few lucrative markets stay untapped for long. Canadians have not been as warm to ecommerce as many other modern markets; even before the internet took over long distance shopping, catalog shopping was simply not as popular there as in the United States. There may be more cultural differences than you bargain for—subtle ones that can make all the difference. 

However, if you decide that a Canadian ecommerce website is the next step in your business’s growth, you may be pleasantly surprised. Many companies simply ignore Canada, and I have heard numerous complaints from citizens that they have a hard time finding ecommerce websites that cater to their needs. If you are the first one in your sector to break into Canada, you may just find this a lucrative area after all.