Cross-border Selling

Canada: Opportunity for U.S., U.K. Ecommerce Merchants?

Canada is the top choice of 84 percent of U.S. merchants who sell cross-border, according to the 2014 Multichannel Merchant Outlook report. Obvious advantages are a common language (most of the 10 million French speaking Canadians are bi-lingual), uncomplicated shipping, and high credit card penetration.

Benefits to Selling in Canada

Sixty percent of Canadians already make purchases from American web merchants and Canadians comprise 37 percent of global cross-border shoppers, says cross-border transaction processor Payvision. Additionally, tax laws and regulations are harmonized in most provinces.

Why are the vast majority of Canadian online purchases from merchants outside the country? Canada simply does not offer a lot of domestic choices for online shopping. Remarkably, the country that is home to Shopify, one of the most popular ecommerce platform providers, is a laggard when it comes to the Internet and ecommerce. Only 46 percent of Canadian businesses have a website according to The Internet Association and ecommerce sites are even more rare.

Why are the vast majority of Canadian online purchases from merchants outside the country? Canada simply does not offer a lot of domestic choices for online shopping.

According to Cameron Schmidt, PayPal Canada’s General Manager, only 20 percent of Canadian businesses engage in online selling. Also, products coming from the U.S. are often priced lower than domestic products. About two-thirds of Canadian consumers who shop online make their purchases from U.S. or UK websites.

Canadian Consumers Embrace Online Buying

Conversely, consumers in Canada are avid Internet users. They view the most web pages of any developed nation, according to online research firm comScore, and 93 percent of Canadians investigate products online before buying. More than half use the web to purchase goods or services. Online research firm eMarketer reports that Canadians purchased $22.97 billion worth of goods online in 2014. The average order is over $100.

Amazon’s Canadian website,, is the biggest player in ecommerce. It controls about 7 percent of the Canadian online retail market while and, have 1.6 percent and 1.5 percent of the market respectively, according to BMO Capital Markets.

In 2013, introduced 14 new product categories, including packaged groceries, cosmetics and office supplies. It provides a French version as well as an English version. French-speaking Canadians are considered to be the most price conscious.

While now offers 58 million items, the number is well below the 266 million offerings on Therefore, many Canadians shop on the U.S. Amazon site. Together, the two sites have a 29 percent share of online sales in the country, according to research firm Euromonitor.

Third-party merchants can sell on, just as with, and the company provides a currency converter tool., a small domestic competitor to, also accommodates sales by third-party merchants. offers 58 million items, well below the 266 million offerings on offers 58 million items, well below the 266 million offerings on

PayPal’s Schmidt indicates that one-third of Canadians have PayPal accounts and Apple Pay is now also available in the country.

What Do Canadian Consumers Expect of Online Merchants?

Canadians like promotions and discounts. Misko Kancko, director of international strategy for Canada Post, claims that 60 percent of shopping cart abandonment is attributable to lack of these two offers. They also want a clear returns policy and easy returns. Failure to provide a return policy accounts for 34 percent of shopping cart abandonment.

Businesses can buy software to create Canada Post return labels that can be emailed to customers directly. It streamlines the process of returns so customers can simply attach the label to their package and drop it off at their local post office.

On May 31, 2015, the U.S. Postal Service switched to zone-based pricing for Priority Mail International shipments to Canada. Shipping rates are now determined by the U.S. origin ZIP code and Canadian destination postal code, rather than a flat rate. This is similar to how the U.S. Postal Service ships packages domestically. Shipping from large cities with international service centers will be less expensive, but costs from smaller cities will increase.

Mobile Shopping in Canada

Canadians are avid mobile users. Eighty-one percent of them subscribe to a wireless service, and 52 percent of these subscribers use smartphones and tablets. comScore estimates that 49 percent of the time Canadians spend online is on a mobile device. Thus, it is important to provide a good mobile buying experience.

Bottom Line

Canadian consumers have shown their willingness to buy online and for whatever reason, Canadian merchants have been slow to adopt ecommerce. Canada represents a good opportunity for online merchants in the U.S., the U.K., and other countries, either selling directly or utilizing a marketplace such as

Marcia Kaplan
Marcia Kaplan
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