It’s a very good question, and one that businesses have pondered for quite some time. The answer, of course, is yes. Surprisingly, more Canadians are online compared to Americans (75% vs. 65%). The Canadian market offers considerable opportunity to American businesses. The trick for American businesses is to practice geographic marketing. Although our “neighbors to the North” are English speaking and familiar with American business practices, there are slight differences and certain laws and regulations that need to be addressed.
[dot]Ca not [dot]com
For example, Canada uses different search engines than the U.S. uses. Therefore, sites that may rank high and trustworthy through American search engines, such as Google, may not rank as high with Canadian search engines, such as Google.ca, Bing and Yahoo! Canada. It’s important for any online business to realize this and do what they can to ensure their website will rank high on these other, more commonly used search engines.
One solution to this problem is for businesses to actually create a separate Canadian website; a site with a domain ending in “.ca” rather than “.com”. A website set up as a Canadian website will automatically (just by default) rank higher than a “.com” website.
Use Regional Keywords
In addition to ranking higher, another benefit to creating a Canadian website is that its content can be written to appeal more so to Canadians. The site can basically be a mirror of your American site, just with slight differences. For instance, certain English words have alternate spellings in Canada because of the French influence on the Canadian language. An easy example is the word “color”; Canadians spell it “colour”. Little details like this are important when trying to capture a Canadian audience. If your website uses the American spelling of this word, and Canadians perform searches for the word “colour”, your site will never show up!
Also, any prices for products or services can be shown in Canadian monetary terms, not American. This will make it more likely for a Canadian to “do business” with your company because it makes it much easier for them. Ease of use is what it’s all about! Having to convert U.S. dollars into Canadian dollars (or vice versa) is just simply irritating and will decrease the chances of a Canadian citizen ordering through a U.S. site.
Speaking of ease of use, it’s vital to make it clear to your Canadian audience what your shipping policies are. It’s important to include information about Canadian customs duties, taxes and custom brokerage fees that may be involved in shipping product from the U.S. to a Canadian address.
Because of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), goods can be shipped to Canada and the receiver is not responsible for duty fees IF the goods were manufactured in the U.S. If the goods were manufactured outside of the U.S., but shipped from a U.S. address, then duty fees will apply. Being honest and up front is the best policy and will help your site and business develop trustworthiness amongst a foreign audience.
Canada is one of the richest nations in the world and tends to have a very secure economy; it is not nearly as volatile as the U.S. economy. Because of this, American companies can stand to benefit from this economic stability. Geographic marketing of any kind is essential when attempting to “tap into” another county or region’s market. By doing research, consulting with experts, and adapting your business and website to appeal to a Canadian market, an American business can definitely benefit from targeting a Canadian audience.