Packing. Shipping. Returns. If the thought of adding these processes to your business makes you shy away from e-commerce, there’s good news. There are tons of resources and services to help micro, small and medium-sized companies like yours take on these tasks. The time is now to lace up, get your game on and make your company more competitive and resilient through these challenging times and beyond.  

If you’ve been reading the other blogs and articles in this e-commerce series, then you already know how critical it is for companies of all sizes, especially brick-and-mortar stores, to push forward with online expansion. 

But e-commerce isn’t just about finding new markets and increasing sales. The companies who thrive in this world will be those that meet the new demands of the COVID-19 consumer. During the pandemic, consumers’ buying habits changed; they’ve experienced the many benefits and conveniences of online shopping, and they have new expectations for shopping in the future—even once the pandemic wanes.

Shipping is easier than you think

Like many smaller businesses, you may be concerned about not knowing what customers want, how shipping costs will impact your bottom line, and how you’ll manage returns logistics.

The trick is to know where you can find the help and knowledge you need. EDC, Google, Shopify, the Trade Commissioner Service, and countless other organizations involved in the e-commerce supply chain have developed comprehensive programs and guides to help Canadian companies create and enhance their online presence, and Canada Post has done the same. 

Because Canada Post ships more packages in Canada than anyone, we’ve built on that knowledge and expertise to share with companies across Canada. (Be sure to check out our new six-part vlog series, How to efficiently operate your e-commerce business.)

Knowing what your customers want

In our Canada Post 2020 Spring Survey (June 2020), we polled over 3,000 Canadian shoppers to understand how shopping behaviours will evolve over time. Here are some key insights to help you meet your customers’ expectations:

  • Clearly communicate, on your home and product pages, your shipping rates, deadlines and your returns policy. Consumers want to know where their purchases are and when to expect them.
  • 70% of online shoppers say they don’t mind waiting longer for online purchases to arrive, as long as they’re given an accurate delivery time frame up front.
  • 60% of online shoppers picked a retailer over another based on a better returns policy (versus 50% in 2019). 

Yes, you can offer free shipping

Free shipping could be the biggest thing you can do to boost to your online sales and influence shoppers to buy more. According to an infographic compiled by Invesp, 90% of consumers say free shipping is their No.1 incentive to shop online more frequently. When free shipping is offered, orders tend to be 30% higher, and nearly 60% of shoppers will add more items to a cart to meet a minimum free-shipping threshold requirement. Plus, 61% of shoppers say they’re likely to cancel an order if free shipping isn’t available. 

“But I can’t afford free shipping,” you might be thinking. It’s a common misconception that free shipping means offering free shipping for every purchase. But there are other tactics you can use to offer free shipping while staying on a budget. Explore what’s best for your margins and manageable for your business.

First, keep in mind that free shipping is such a powerful motivator to buy that it packs twice the influence of a percentage-savings deal. Consumers are more likely to buy a higher-priced item with free shipping than to buy an on-sale item that charges extra for shipping—even if the end price is the same. So consider offering free shipping instead of a coupon. 

Understanding this consumer psychology means you may want to consider building all or some of your shipping costs into the price of your product.

Another tip is to offer free shipping after an order reaches a certain dollar value. This will encourage your customers to buy more to reach the threshold, making free shipping on the larger order more cost-effective for you.

You can also consider offering free shipping on the products or collections that will most appeal to your customers, especially during peak selling periods when they’re engaged and ready to buy. 

Regulations, duties and logistics for international shipping

When you’re selling online, your orders can come from anywhere. That means you need to understand the customs regulations of your customer’s market, duties and taxes, and the logistics of getting it delivered to them. 

Fortunately, many countries have set a De Minimus, which allows orders under a certain monetary value to enter the country duty-free. This amount varies by country. For instance, it’s currently $800 in the United States (U.S.) and just €22 in many European countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and France.  

You may also want to focus on markets where Canada has free trade agreements, but ensure the product you’re shipping is specified as an exempted good under the trade agreement.  

It’s important to note that whoever is responsible for paying duties, depends on how and where you ship your package. If you ship through the postal network, meaning Canada Post, the recipient pays the duties. Customs officials will determine the amount based on the information you provide about the value of the shipment, the country of origin, materials used, etc. 

If you ship through the commercial network (such as UPS, FedEx or DHL), payment of duties can be the responsibility of the merchant or the recipient, depending on the terms of the sale. 

The U.S. is a great first market for your export sales. But shipping to another market, even our southern neighbour, can be complex. Here are a few things to consider:

Customs broker: If you’re shipping through the commercial stream, a registered customs broker can help ensure your products reach your customers, quickly and efficiently.

Postal Clearance: Items clearing in the postal network that don’t require formal customs entry will not require a customs broker to clear customs at destination.

Regulations: Both the U.S. and Canada have their own sets of product standards and regulations. You have to be compliant with U.S. import standards and Canada’s export rules as well.

U.S. Food & Drug Administrations (FDA): Digestible and cosmetic products, among others, are strictly regulated by the FDA, and your products must comply.

Scale: Ensure you’re able to scale your business and output to ten-times your current volume, and that you have strategically located inventory for rapid fulfillment. See the blog in this series on how to get your e-commerce business ready for action.

You can also learn more about the ins and outs of these considerations through our comprehensive guides. Our Guide to International Shipping Guide will tell you virtually everything you need to know about shipping, and our guide to navigating customs outlines what you can and can’t ship across borders, how duties and taxes work, how to fill out a customs form accurately and in detail, the customs process and more. 

You’ll also want to check out our new Think Small program, which helps small businesses navigate the pandemic with tools, resources, knowledge, exclusive offers, and an introduction to our partners. 

Increase sales by making returns easy for your customers

More than half of online shoppers look for information about returns before they make a purchase, but many new e-commerce sellers are concerned about how they can manage returns. Not to worry! We’ve talked to Canadian shoppers and entrepreneurs across the country, who told us what they want in a great returns policy.

One place to start is My Returns, a free online tool to create and manage your parcel return preferences. And, just in time for the holiday season, check out, Preparing your return strategy for the 2020 holiday season.

Another good solution is to work with a logistics provider who can help you incorporate a return process into your e-commerce platform. I’ve personally worked with companies to help them come up with a returns policy, and we have every possible kind of returns solutions a merchant could be looking for. So go ahead and reach out—you can book a free consultation with an e-commerce expert to help you design or improve your returns strategy for your business.  

Get fresh insights, read success stories and tap into valuable resources 

Find the tools and guidance you need to operate more effectively in the changing e-commerce landscape by browsing the Canada Post hub

Tip: Verify customer addresses

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