Canadians – They’re (Actually Not) Just Like Us!

Canadians – They’re (Actually Not) Just Like Us!

When I speak at conferences, I usually ask if there are any Canadians in the audience. There are usually a few, and I like to use the opportunity to open the eyes of the audience to the surprisingly challenging Canadian experience of ordering online and the importance of localization.

Canadians often say to me, “You Americans think that we are just like you.”

My question is… Well aren’t you? You look like us. You mostly speak the same language except for certain regions that I can’t remember the names of that are obsessed with French. You are nice like us – well maybe a little nicer. You like the same stuff, except for fake stuff we put in our syrup. And you live basically in the same region as we do. So what is the problem here?

Talking for any length of time with a Canadian makes it clear that their experience of shopping with US eCommerce players couldn’t be more different from the American experience.

Here’s how:

  1. Canadians use a different currency. It seems obvious, but the reality of how important this is becomes clear when you ask a Canadian—any Canadian—what the current exchange rate with the US Dollar is. They know off the top of their head. Completely strange, right? As it turns out, the GRIN has uncovered data supporting the notion that Canadians (and most other shoppers from international countries who purchase from US retailers online) will stop shopping on cross-border sites if there is a significant shift in the strength of the US dollar.  Traffic to the site will fall off before the consumer even gets a chance to compare pricing at the checkout. That’s how educated most international ecommerce shoppers are.
  1. Canadians care about the selection of products. One Canadian shopper we spoke with described shopping on a .ca domain like going into a store and realizing that half of the shop’s items are cordoned off because you aren’t American. This shopper chooses to get a US PO Box at the border and drive down a few times a year to purchase the items available on the .com version of the same site. (You can listen to our interview with her here)
  1. Canadians also care about the price of a product (go figure!). They already have an expert understanding of the value of their currency, and they also factor in other considerations for shopping cross-border like tax and duty. They understand that if they purchase a product cross-border and duty is not calculated at checkout, that they may be on the hook for it before delivery of the product.

Yowzer, these Canadians are weird.

All in all, Canadians are like most international consumers. They have high expectations, and if these expectations are not met, they are either not going to order or they’re going to find a way around the system with freight forwarding services or P.O. Box services (a very convenient option for the 70% of consumers that live within an hour of the US border).

Casting Canadians as “just like Americans” is a common mistake when it comes to cross-border commerce. It isn’t just a US issue, though – this problem is global. Indeed, to truly understand consumers from other countries, their expectations, their passions, well, this is without a doubt the most challenging part of our business

At the GRIN, we help retailers on this journey, accelerating their understanding of the markets where they are doing business to better service their passionate consumers. Get in touch when you’re ready to learn the ins and outs of going global. In the meantime, ask the next Canadian you meet if they know today’s exchange rate.