If you’re currently selling on Amazon in the United States and looking to expand internationally, there are a myriad of options.
Before you look overseas there’s an option much closer to home: our neighbor to the north, Canada.
Canadian e-commerce sales increased by 30% in 2017 and have been climbing steadily in 2018. It’s projected that the number will grow to $71 billion in 2021, representing a staggering 66% of retail growth in Canada.
Canada can be an excellent first step when expanding your Amazon store to other markets.
You have the potential to reach a population the size of California.
There are no additional Amazon fees – you can sell in Canada from your US-based professional seller account.
There’s no need to translate your listing.
Think Canada could be right for you? Let’s jump in and find out!
Gauge Product Demand
One of the first things to do when entering a new market is to determine if your product is a good fit.
While the United States and Canada are geographically close, they are two separate markets with different consumers. Many people assume that Canadians speak a lot like their American neighbors, but in fact, they have their own unique phrases and slang.
Keep this in mind when researching keywords for product development, and listing and ad optimization. You can see what Canadian consumers are searching for on Amazon with MerchantWords’ global keyword database.
Here are some Canadian terms to get you started:
runners - tennis shoes or sneakers
knapsack - backpack or rucksack
pencil crayons - colored pencils
housecoat - bathrobe
elastic - rubber band
tuque - knitted cap or beanie
Also, consider French alternatives to English words in your keyword research. Remember, that while Amazon.ca is in English, French is an official language in Quebec and New Brunswick – that’s over 6 million French Canadians!
Searching for keywords in both languages can give you a more accurate representation of the potential market for your product.
Pro Tip: Save these keywords for your backend search terms and PPC campaigns down the road.
Take a look at the top-selling products in Amazon.ca’s Best Sellers section and the latest offers in Today’s Deals. These top lists and daily offers can help you uncover a product niche, give you a better understanding of the competitive environment for your product, and hone in on the details necessary to create a product that Canadian customers want to buy.
Understand Product Guidelines
Check to make sure that your product meets the health and safety guidelines set by various Canadian agencies.
If you sell a food product check with Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the Competition Bureau for regulations regarding food labeling. Health Canada will also provide you with information about nutritional guidelines. For example, there is a limit on the amount of salt allowed in Canadian foods.
Food isn’t the only product affected by Canadian guidelines. Any products containing chemicals or pertaining to consumer safety are subject to regulation.
Once you decide on your product, the next major decision is how your product will get to your customers.
Are you going to ship your inventory yourself or will Amazon fulfill your customer’s orders? Each seller’s situation is different and depends on where you store your inventory and how quickly you can ship it to your customers.
Canada is the second largest country in the world in terms of land size, covering 3.8 million square miles (9.8 square kilometers). All of that means that without a system in place, it could be very expensive (and take a while) for your product to cross the US border and reach a customer in northern Canada.
With Amazon customers accustomed to shorter shipping times, using Fulfillment by Amazon can allow you to take advantage of two-day shipping. You can also rely on Amazon for product storage, packing, delivery, and the management of any returns.
Import and Export Regulations
As a non-resident, there are a couple of things you’ll need to do to sell in Canada.
The first is to become Non-Resident Importer (NRI). Rather than a single application, there are two separate steps to becoming an NRI. The first is getting a Business Number, and the second is completing the Records responsibility form.
You (or a broker acting on your behalf) can apply for a Business Number through the Canada Revenue Agency. Your Business Number acts as your tax identification number and is recognized by federal, provincial, and local governments.
The Records responsibility form must be completed by the seller. This form is for the Canadian government’s organizational use and requires a Business Number to complete.
Navigating these forms can be difficult and time-consuming. If you need help, consider contacting our friends at BorderBuddy. They can help streamline your customs paperwork so you’ll be ready to sell in Canada in no time!
Off to Seller Central
Once you’ve determined that Canada is a good fit for your business and you’ve understood the necessary steps to import your products to Canada, you’re ready to go.
Great news: you can add Canadian listings from your existing professional Seller Central account! Just look for the “List globally” widget on the right-hand side of your Seller Central homepage.
If your Seller Central account is based outside of the United States, you'll need to sign up for a North America Unified account. Use Amazon’s guide to make sure you have the correct account to sell in Canada and other marketplaces.
Plan Ahead for Peak Shopping Periods
Consider the following holidays for product ideas and launch times:
Family Day (second Monday in February): While Family Day is not a national holiday, it’s celebrated in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. About two-thirds of Canada’s population lives in these provinces. While there are no official traditions associated with the holiday, people use the time to travel and spend the day with family. Stock up on travel-related and outdoor winter accessories to help families enjoy the day.
Victoria Day (Monday preceding the 25th of May): This holiday serves to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday and many territories celebrate with local parades and firework shows. It also serves as the unofficial beginning of the summer season. Canadian consumers begin shopping for summer products like bike helmets and swimming gear around this time.
Canada Day (7/1): The national day of Canada celebrates the unification of three provinces – Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick – to form the country of Canada. Canadians celebrate through face painting and picnics. Be sure to have plenty of picnic supplies in stock! Quebec’s Moving Day also falls on July 1st. Many fixed-lease apartments expire this day so customers are looking to buy moving materials like boxes and tape to make their move easier.
NHL Opening Day (beginning of October): Ice hockey is recognized as the official winter sport of Canada. Canadians love to watch their local team and compete to be the most spirited fan in the arena. And they don’t just watch hockey; they play it, too! Customers will be looking to purchase team jerseys and hats, hockey bags, pucks, and socks throughout the season.
Cyber Monday (11/26): This American tradition has found its way to our friends in the North. The one-day shopping event spans all categories, though the focus tends to be on electronics. Shoppers search for discounted prices and promotional deals all day long.
Boxing Day (12/26): Boxing day is the largest shopping day in Canada with retailers breaking out deals similar to Black Friday! Amazon runs Boxing Day promotions throughout the 26th. Make sure that you have inventory in stock, are prepared to run discounts, and have optimized your PPC ad campaigns.
Enjoy Canada, sellers! And remember, if you need to optimize your listings MerchantWords is always here to help.