“I feel quite patriotic and proud to hear that so many Canadians continue to say that they prefer making their online purchases from Canadian retailers when they can possibly make that their choice,” says Avery Swartz, a digital marketing consultant and the CEO of Camp Tech. “The best way that a Canadian retailer can distinguish themselves from other online retailers is to have a .CA domain name. It’s kind of the number one way to show that you are Canadian.”
Canadian stores can also play to the home crowd by making it clear that they are based in Canada on their website and in social media posts, Swartz says. Stating clearly what regions you will ship to will help with search engine optimization, and you can target the geographic regions you sell to using search and social ads. Don’t be afraid to keep telling them that you’re proud to be Canadian and you love Canadian shoppers.
“It really does kind of burrow into shopper's brains so that they remember you next time they’re looking for something and want to purchase directly from a Canadian retailer,” she says.
Why do Canadians look out for Canadian stores online? Fifty-five per cent of Canadians said they did so to benefit the Canadian economy or support local businesses. That’s increased from 48 per cent that said the same in last year’s survey. Other motivations for shopping within the country include paying with the Canadian dollar or exchange rate at 13 per cent, and avoiding custom fees or duty fees at 12 per cent. Sometimes, just being Canadian is reason enough, as 59 per cent of Canadians say they purposefully made an online purchase from a Canadian retailer instead of an American or other international retailer in the past 12 months.
“I do think that there is a real spirit of Canadians wanting to support Canadian, particularly during the pandemic,” said Swartz. “As we start to hopefully move our way out of the pandemic, having that Canadian recovery is so, so important to all of us. And I think Canadians really take a lot of pride and want to see that happen. They know supporting local business is a key part of that.”
For those that are buying Canadian, 55 per cent say the experience of purchasing with them was about the same as past experiences making similar purchases from the U.S. or elsewhere. Another 35 per cent said the experience was actually better.
“There really is an issue with people wanting to go with what is the most convenient online experience,” Swartz says. “They want to go with whoever has the best price or can offer the best value. They also look at things like shipping. But that online shopping experience is so, so important.”
Some international competitors have honed their customer experience well, she says. So, it’s good to see so many shoppers find Canadian retailers are just as good or better. For stores that are trying to improve, she suggests getting to know your customer as best as you can. Consider forming a customer advisory group and using them to test new ideas or redesigns of the e-commerce experience.
“It’s a great idea to have some people that you can just kind of do a gut check with, run it by them to see what they think,” Swartz advises.
When it comes to considerations of security and privacy, Canadians say they are more comfortable making purchases on Canadian retail or government websites than on U.S. retail websites. About three in four Canadians say they are perfectly comfortable making a purchase on a Canadian retail website, 69 per cent say they are comfortable with a government website, and only half say they are comfortable with a U.S. retail website.
Looking ahead to the post-pandemic transition, Swartz says it’s worth it to take a moment and celebrate what businesses have been able to achieve.
“I give a huge round of applause to all small, medium, and even large businesses that survived during the pandemic, it has been a time,” she says. “I have seen so many people be so creative and so resilient in the ways that they are trying to connect with their customers.”
At CIRA, we see this resilience reflected in the number of .CA domain registrations that have occurred over the past year. In the year of the pandemic, Canadian small businesses have needed to pivot quickly to get an online storefront. As a result, we have seen .CA domain registrations skyrocket from around 2.8 million domain registrations in March 2020—when the pandemic began—to over 3.1 million registrations a year later.
One trend that’s come out of the pandemic and should last is the effort that businesses are making to meet their customers where they are, Swartz says. Whether that is by organizing to-the-door delivery for customers, or arranging curbside pickup at a local store, or even integrating purchases right within a social media feed, it all makes the experience of online shopping more ubiquitous and easier.