If your retail or eCommerce website is enjoying success in the US, it may be time to consider expanding into the Canadian market. After all, we’re both on the same continent, we both speak English (most of the time) and we have similar tastes, right?
Well yes and no. Before expanding into Canada, you will want to do some research. First of all, the laws governing sales of products and services are different, sales and use taxes are different, even laws of incorporation are different. Before making the leap, you will want
to explore your options with both a US and a Canadian attorney or legal advisor.
In many ways, conducting business in Canada actually provides more protection for your brand name than the US. More information on Shopify guide to business incorporation in Canada can be found on various websites and on the Industry Canada website.
Before expanding into Canada, do your market research. Before expanding into any territory, whether US or Canadian, you need to understand a) what your product or service is, b) who your target audience is, c) why your fans buy your product and d) which marketing messages have been most successful for you in building your brand.
Think of it this way, if you are a boutique California clothing company specializing in surfer girl attire and accessories, can you quantify sales and orders coming from various states in the US? In other words, how do your products do in colder regions? Maybe your brand is hot with teens, but are you seeing more sales of hoodie-sweaters and accessories like scarves and sunglasses in colder states, and more sales of board shorts and flip flops in warmer states?
So in other words, what product exactly are you going to bring to the Canadian market? Who will buy it and why?
Planning Your Market Entry
When moving into a new national market, it’s important to create a new business plan, just as you (hopefully) did for your first business. Your marketing plan is more than just a roadmap for success — you may be using it to define your Canadian corporation bylaws, hire staff and perhaps create a whole new marketing campaign.
Research is key. Begin by looking at your competitors in that market. Who is selling similar products, and who is leading the pack? What is their pricing? Do they have production and shipping facilities in Canada? Who is buying their products? What are the reviews for their products?
Next, do some social media mining. Use your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media accounts to create polls and discussions about your products. Cultivate Canadian followers and ask very targeted questions, like “For the same price, would you buy this fabulous scarf or this pair of personalized sunglasses?”
If you have confidence in your company’s brand and image, don’t be discouraged if some products are not as popular initially in Canada as they are in the US. After all, it’s a whole new world — and a whole new opportunity to put your creative team to work developing a new line of products.