What it takes to open an eCommerce business in Canada

6 min read
Erin Hutchison

Canadians love online shopping. In the last 12 months, 86 percent of us have made an online purchase, according to Canada’s Internet Factbook, and that number will only continue to grow. Why do we love eCommerce so much?

Perhaps it is a combination of the rush of purchasing something, mixed with the wave of excitement when you get a package in the mail.

Maybe it’s because we love to support our fellow Canadian entrepreneurs and makers. On the other hand, maybe it’s just too convenient when you can purchase with the click of a button instead of bundling up, facing the winter and talking to real people.

Regardless of the reason, now is the time for Canadian small businesses to embrace online shopping. If you’re looking at operating an eCommerce website to make some extra moolah, here are some tips to keep your customers happy and sell more products.

Related: Check out this post on how to build an eCommerce website.

5 things you need to get right to succeed at online sales

Here are the key elements required to sell online from your own eCommerce website.

  1. A memorable business name.

  2. The ability to accept a variety of payment methods.

  3. Reliable shipping.

  4. A way to manage your inventory.

  5. Better customer service than anyone else.

Read on for more on how to get each of these elements right.

Start selling products online

Ecommerce FitBit
From electronics to clothing and housewares, Canadians are buying it online.
Photo: Andres Urena on Unsplash

Whether you have a brick-and-mortar store and want to expand online or you’re interested in launching an exclusively digital experience, eCommerce is full of opportunity.

1. A memorable business name

You will need to select a business name that resonates with your customers. Your business name is such an important step that you might want to refer to our post on business name generators for advice.

Once you’ve got a great name, try to buy the matching domain name, then register your new business name with the Canadian government.

It’s important to know that there are regulations on your business name, copyrights and trademarks, all of which might vary depending on where you’re located. The Government of Canada offers a few resources to help you out there.

Editor's note: You can also turn a business name into a captivating logo that makes a lasting impression with your target audience. Try GoDaddy's logo creator to design one for free (no prior design skills necessary) and choose from hundreds of curated templates and fonts that fit your business style best.

The home team advantage

Before you settle on a domain name, remember that 62 percent of Canadians prefer making online purchases from Canadian businesses. A .ca domain name is the easiest way to signal to customers that your website is homegrown.

See if the domain name you want for your business is available now!

2. The ability to accept a variety of payment methods

Ecommerce Security SSL
Checkout might be simple for the buyer, but it requires some serious tech to work properly.

You’ll need an eCommerce website with an online shopping cart to accept and process payments securely. Canadian’s Internet Business provides a good checklist of things you can use to select a eCommerce platform that meets your needs.

GoDaddy offers a simple solution that includes:

  • An online shopping cart that accepts all major credit cards, PayPal and Apple Pay
  • Worry-free payment processing
  • A variety of shipping options
  • Social integration
  • A host of promotional tools

Online Store requires no technical skills to use. Try it free for 30 days so you can test the waters before you commit.

Don’t forget the data encryption

As a new business owner, you will be wearing many hats, ranging from CFO to office administrator. Amidst the circus, don’t forget that it’s your responsibility to ensure your customer’s data — including their credit card info — is safe and secure.

This is why Online Store comes with SSL encryption. It keeps all data flowing to and from your new eCommerce website safe from digital thieves.

3. Reliable shipping

Among the ways to enrage a Canadian, an online shipping fiasco is right up there with having your thermostat stuck on Fahrenheit. Doing shipping right is such an essential component of the eCommerce experience that you want to take the time to set it up correctly.

There are many factors to consider with shipping:

  • The types and weights of products you sell (delicate figurines have different requirements than a customized postcard).
  • The location you are shipping to (Canada is a big place).
  • Frequency — for example, if you are running a monthly coffee subscription service.

It is critical to develop a unique shipping strategy that works for your business. Online Store makes this bit easy, requiring a few clicks to enable.

4. A way to manage your inventory

Even the most blissful yoga instructor can become an unhappy customer if they can’t get their hands on their favourite Stevia organic extract powder.

Ecommerce Boutique Checkout
eCommerce is a natural choice for any business that already has a successful physical store.
Photo: rawpixel on Unsplash

Poorly managed inventory is not a good look for your business. As you build relationships with repeat customers, you want to keep them happy and make more sales.

It’s in your best interest to set up a way to monitor your sales. If something is out of stock, ensure it’s indicated on your website and then get right on sourcing more stock!

A cool feature that some sites have is the ability to back order items that are not available at the time, or notify interested customers when they do become available. With Online Store, you have the option of turning back ordering on or off.

5. Better customer service than anyone else

Technology is marvelous and opens up so many possibilities for business, but it can’t solve all your problems. Occasionally technology fails and we need a good old-fashioned human to help out.

It’s easier and less expensive to keep a current customer than to recruit a new one.

Depending on your sales volume and website activity, you might want to look into customer relationship management (CRM) tools such as Salesforce that can help you easily manage your customer relationships.

Related: From crowdfunding to loans: How to find startup funding

Keep the eCommerce momentum going

While there is plenty of opportunity to sell online, running an eCommerce site is no walk in the park. There is a lot of legwork to establish your business — setting up your eCommerce website, making sure the online shopping cart works smoothly and sorting out shipping.

Even once you get things up and running, you get to continue wearing your many hats to keep the momentum going and ensure enough inventory is in stock and your customers are happy. But ask anyone who’s succeeding and they’ll tell you — it’s the best gig in town.