We often work with US-based online retailers excited about entering the Canadian market. While there are plenty of opportunities for online sales in Canada, customizing your website for your target market is vitally important for success. Below are some things you’ll need to address when building your Canadian web presence.
Country-Level Domain Code. Every country (and some territories) have reserved, two-letter country code domains; in Canada, that code is .ca. Using a locally-branded domain can increase awareness, web recall, brand sales, and loyalty. Also note that most local search engines prioritize content by location. More information can be found at Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA); a list of Internet country domains can be found here.
Language. Companies who build their websites for foreign markets must ensure they communicate with their target audience in their native tongue. Canada and the U.S. have a shared language, although Canada is officially bilingual (English and French) and companies may need to add a translate function to reach Quebec and other French-speaking parts of the country. Note too that despite a shared language, many Canadian English words are spelled differently (i.e., ‘colour’ vs. ‘color’), or phrased in a different vernacular (i.e., ‘soda’ vs. ‘pop’). This should be addressed when building your Canadian landing page.
Currency. When Canadians shop or engage services online, they expect to be quoted in Canadian funds. And be aware of exchange rates; the Canadian dollar is currently trading lower than its U.S. counterpart, resulting in a noticeable discrepancy for Canada’s online shoppers.
Culture. When creating a website for a foreign market, it’s important to be aware of cultural nuances such as colour and symbol associations, and even turns of phrase. Although Canada and the U.S. do have similar cultures and a shared language, there are small differences that are noticeable to Canadian audiences. Note too that Canada primarily uses the metric system; distances should be listed in kilometres, although dimensions and weights may also be listed in both metric and imperial.
The OPTASY, export.gov, and Passport to Trade websites all have great suggestions for customizing websites for foreign markets. And, of course, study Canada’s tax landscape to stay atop any obligations.
Paying attention to these items can help ensure maximum success in Canada’s eCommerce market.